Austin Dillon will start from the pole in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday. His pole speed of 188.482 mph is a new track record.
It’s the North Carolina driver’s second Sprint Cup Series pole and first since winning the 2014 Daytona 500 pole. Dillon sits eighth in Sprint Cup Series points and has a best finish of fifth recorded at Las Vegas. His best Auto Club Speedway finish in the Sprint Cup Series is 11th. He was also fastest in the Friday morning Sprint Cup practice session before qualifying.
Dillon recorded his time right before the end of the session, relegating Kevin Harvick to second at his home track. Harvick’s Fontana stat line has him at 22 starts, ten top 10s, five top 5s, and a win in the 2011 race.
Denny Hamlin will start third while Ryan Newman’s fourth ties his best start of the season so far. Carl Edwards rounds out the top 5 starters. Edwards comes into Auto Club after coming just inches short of winning at Phoenix last weekend. Fontana isn’t a track Carl Edwards wins consistently at (only one win and it was in 2008) but it is a consistent track, with 14 top 10s in 18 starts for “Cousin Carl”.
Kyle Busch, currently tied with Harvick for the Sprint Cup points lead, qualified sixth. Although he hasn’t raced at Auto Club in two years, his final four race results prove he’s going to be a threat on Sunday: a third, a second, and two straight wins.
Kasey Kahne qualified for the final session but did not complete a lap in time before the session ended. Although he recorded no time, he will still start 12th on race day.
Some notables who did not make to the third round of qualifying included defending race winner Brad Keselowski, who ended up qualifying 15th after being fastest in round one. Jimmie Johnson, donning the Superman colors this weekend, could do no better than 19th. Matt Kenseth, who has won three races at Fontana, qualified just behind Johnson in 20th.
Kurt Busch (26th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (27th) didn’t even make it out of the first round due to how worn their tires were after one early run. Both of them and nine other drivers couldn’t pick up any time when they went out for their second attempt in the round, and none of them made it into the second round. One of these drivers was also California native and a dark horse pick to win on Sunday Kyle Larson, who struggled to 32nd.
Qualifying was delayed by a couple of minutes by the presence of a beehive near the flagman’s stand.
Full results can be found here.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.