FONTANA, Calif. — Backing up his first place practice run earlier in the afternoon and riding a red hot start coming into the weekend, Kyle Larson claims the pole in the final seconds of qualifying ahead of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway.
The driver of the No.42 Target Chevrolet, who for the first time in his career, comes into the race weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader, blistered off a time of 38.493 (187.047 mph) to claim his second ever career pole award and his first since his rookie season at Pocono in 2014.
“I felt like I messed up there in 1 and 2 and got a little bit loose off the wall on entry and it got me to split the seam but I was committed to get wide open pretty good off of 2.” Larson said. “I hadn’t ran up high in 3 and 4 at all in practice or qualifying here so didn’t really know what I would have when I got there but ran in a good ways and it stuck. This is awesome, can’t say enough about everyone at our race shop for all the hard work they’ve been putting in. We got a little team dinner tonight so this’ll be a good way to celebrate.”
“I wasn’t really sure what I would have because on our up to speed laps up there I was a little bit tight taking off and then I would be kind of loose off, so I was expecting to have that, but it stuck really well and yeah, I saw the lap pop up on my dash and I was pretty pumped. Can’t say enough about everybody on our Target team. They did an amazing job all day.”
Starting in the second position is the No.11 SportClips Toyota of Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was quickest throughout much of the third round of the qualifying session landing a lap of 38.507 (186.979 mph), until Larson knocked him off in the last moments of the session.
“We’re going to give it our best shot.” Hamlin said. “This is No. 1 on my list of tracks that I want to win, I’ve been so close so many times. Love coming here, one of my very favorite racetracks. It’s bitten me mentally and physically at this racetrack so it’s definitely one I want to check off.”
Starting in the third position is the 2015 winner of this race, Brad Keselowski, with Martin Truex Jr and last weeks winner, Ryan Newman rounding out the top 5.
Other notables in qualifying included Larson’s teammate Jamie McMurray in eighth, Daniel Suarez in tenth and Kasey Kahne, being the only Hendrick Motorsports car in the top-12, qualifying in P12.
While the action on track was ongoing, the action in the garage was just as interesting as some notable teams failed to make it through qualifying inspection. Among those who failed to make it to the track included, Joey Logano , Trevor Bayne, Gray Gaulding and Matt DiBenedetto. They did not make it on the track in the first round of qualifying and will start P35, P36, P38 and P39 respectively.
Jimmie Johnson who had an accident in the opening practice earlier in the afternoon, elected not to qualify his N0.48 Chevrolet, as the team continued to work on his backup car.
The next on track activity for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, will be the second practice, Saturday, March 25 at 8:30 am PT. (FS1, MRN, Sirius XM)