Austin Dillon captured the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Friday afternoon at the two-mile oval. Dillon earned his second career pole in the Sprint Cup Series with a lap of 38.200 seconds, 188.482 mph. in the final round of qualifying, which broke the previous track record set by Kyle Busch in 2005. His previous best start at the track was 20th back in 2014 with Richard Childress Racing. Dillon last started on the pole in the 2014 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
“It means everything. That is what I said down the backstretch. A Daytona 500 pole sitter, now I got a pole somewhere else,” said Dillon in an interview. “To do it at a driver’s race track like this at Fontana it means a lot to me. Just proud of this American Ethanol team we’ve had fast cars all year long. I knew going into that third session if I didn’t make mistakes I would have a shot. I just stayed with it off of (Turn) 4. I kept my locker locked as much as I could with the gas just keeping as much fuel to the car as I could. It worked out for us.”
Brad Keselowski ended round one as the fastest driver in the No. 2 Wurth Ford for Team Penske. Key drivers of Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson did not advance into round two. They will start 26th, 27th and 32nd on Sunday afternoon.
Denny Hamlin ended the second round of qualifying at the top of the leaderboard in his No. 11 FedEx Toyota. Chase Elliott would end the session right behind Hamlin in the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. His teammate Kasey Kahne would also barely squeak into the final round by sitting in the 12th position. Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were among the notables to not advance into the final round of Sprint Cup Series qualifying.
Kevin Harvick was fast but not fast enough to snatch the pole away from Dillon as he ended the final round in second. Sunday will mark Harvick’s fourth top-10 start of the brand-new season in 2016.
“Well each round was a little bit different,” said Harvick in an interview after qualifying. “The second round I had a little traffic getting onto the race track. The first round was pretty clean. I didn’t really change anything. I think I caught the inside of that seam with the right-side tires a little more than I wanted to through (Turns) 1 and 2 and it just started to step out and I had to pedal it three or four times down there because it was loose. Pretty good through (Turns) 3 and 4, but all-in-all a good day for our Jimmy John’s/Busch team and hopefully we can cap that off with a win when we get done on Sunday.”
Hamlin will start the 400-mile event on Sunday in third. Elliott will be the highest starting Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender as he will take the green flag in eighth.
No drivers will go home as 39 cars appeared on the Sprint Cup entry list at Auto Club Speedway.