It is rare in today’s day and age for a driver to be fastest in both Sprint Cup practice and qualifying. Kurt Busch ended the first practice session and round two of qualifying as the fastest driver. He then went out and busted a lap quicker in round three to beat his teammate Kevin Harvick for the pole on Sunday.
Last Sunday at Phoenix, Busch brought home a top five finish in his first race back behind the wheel of his No. 41 Chevrolet since he was suspended for three races. The No. 41 Chevrolet will sit atop the scoring pylon when 43 drivers take the green flag on Sunday for the Auto Club 400. The team will look to carry its momentum over to Sunday.
“Thank you Gene (Haas), for believing in me,” Busch said after claiming the pole. “This is my job. I come to the race track, drive the car and put it up on the pole and go for wins. I’m glad I have the chance to go out there and live up to why he hired me.”
Busch goes into the weekend with a chip on his shoulder and would like to prove the doubters wrong. After finishing just one Sprint Cup Series race, Busch is already up to 33rd in points and only 17 points outside the top-30. He must be inside the top 30 in order to be Chase eligible.
The defending pole-winner of the Auto Club 400, Matt Kenseth, will roll from the third starting position. The No. 20 Toyota was the fastest car in the first round of qualifying but could not find enough speed in the final round to take the pole.
His fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of David Ragan and Denny Hamlin will start from the fourth and sixth spot. This is by far Ragan’s best start of the season as he will look to put the No. 18 in victory lane for the third consecutive season at the Auto Club Speedway. Kyle Busch has won the last two races in Fontana.
Jimmie Johnson, who was fifth fastest in the first practice session on Friday afternoon, will line-up in the 14th position on Sunday. This is Johnson’s second consecutive time he did not make the final round in qualifying.
“We were just trying to guess where to run,” Johnson said following his qualifying effort. “We only had three hot laps in practice to figure it out. It’s a little disappointing but we will deal with 14th and go from there.”
After crashing in practice, Carl Edwards will begin the 400-mile event from the 16th starting position. He had no laps on his car when going out for the first round of qualifying.
“This is a small victory for us,” Edwards explained after climbing out of his No. 19 Toyota Camry. “We have more of the field behind us than in front of us. To get into the car stone cold and be able to be 16th, it will give us a good starting position.”
Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle did not make it into the second round of qualifying. McMurray will start 26th while Biffle will roll off in 29th.
“Our best car was 27th and that is just unacceptable,” Biffle said to FOX. “We are dying a slow death and need to improve.”
Brett Moffitt will start from 30th on Sunday who is subbing for Brian Vickers. Vickers is out of competition due to a reoccurrence in blood clots. While trying to make it into the last round of qualifying, Moffitt scraped the wall and ended his chance of advancing.
“We have really struggled today,” Moffitt told FOX after hopping out of his car. “We need speed. I hope we can repair this and get better tomorrow.”
The No. 29 of Reed Sorenson and the No. 44 of Travis Kvapil failed to qualify for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.