Dillon wins Fontana pole

Austin Dillon
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS
Harold Hinson for Chevy

Austin Dillon won the Coors Light Pole Award on Friday at Auto Club Speedway and will lead the field to Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

This is the Richard Childress Racing driver's first pole win this season and his second of his Sprint Cup Series career.

Starting next to Dillon on the front row at Fontana will be Kevin Harvick. The 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion earned his first and only win at Auto Club in 2011.

Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards complete the top five in the starting lineup. Rookie Chase Elliott showed some speed and qualified eighth for his first start at Fontana.

Defending race winner Brad Keselowski qualified 15th. California native Jimmie Johnson, who has earned five wins at Fontana, qualified 19th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 27th after getting loose in the first round and losing speed. Earnhardt's best recent finish at Auto Club came in 2013 when the Hendrick Motorsports driver was a runner up to now-Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.

The Sprint Cup Series returns to the track Saturday at 11 a.m. ET (FS2) for its second practice session of the weekend.

AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 AMERICAN ETHANOL CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]YOU WERE DAYTONA 500 POLE WINNER TWO YEARS AGO, YOU HADN’T HAD A POLE SINCE WHAT DOES THIS ONE MEAN TO YOU?

“It means everything. That is what I said down the backstretch. A Daytona 500 pole sitter, now I got a pole somewhere else. To do it at a drivers 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."

YOU WEREN’T THE FASTEST CAR IN THE FIRST OR SECOND ROUND HOW MUCH STRATEGY WENT INTO TAKING CARE OF THOSE TIRES SO YOU HAD IT WHEN IT COUNTED IN THE THIRD ROUND?

“Well me and my engineers just talked about it. We wanted to be from 13th to 24th in that first one. We were 13th on the front side of that. On the second run I was a little tight. We just kept freeing the car up a little bit there to help ourselves in that third run and it all worked out."

ON WINNING THE POLE:

“Very cool just huge for RCR. We’ve wanted to get our cars back to this moment in time to put ourselves in a shot to win a race. We’ve got fast cars this year and I’m proud of our guys, they just keep working hard. Hopefully, we can turn this into something on Sunday."

WHAT WAS THE FINAL QUALIFYING LAP LIKE?

“Well just kept talking to my engineers about driving style and what I needed to do on that last run. I entered really hard the run before in (Turns) 1 and 2 and I think it hurt me. I just lifted and pumped the brakes a little bit earlier and coasted into 1 and it really got to the gas good. When it came to (Turns) 3 and 4 I just tried to keep my gas foot in it as much as I could and use the whole track. I felt like we had a good pull to the start/finish line. It felt like it kicked up and was running well. Just proud to put that No. 3 back where it needs to be. Hopefully, we can do this a few more times this year."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 JIMMY JOHN’S CHEVROLET SS – Qualified 2nd

DID YOU CHANGE YOUR LINE DURING THE THREE ROUNDS?

“Well each round was a little bit different. 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."

ON HIS CHANCES SUNDAY:

“Yeah, this is the first qualifying/practice and then going from practice to qualifying that I think we have all felt like the car did exactly what we thought it was going to do. Our goal was to run the same lap time all three rounds usually that is going to put you in a spot to have a chance, but all-in-all it’s been a good start to the weekend and really looking forward to the race on Sunday."

NASCAR at California 2016—Qualifying Results

Result Driver Fastest Time

1 Austin Dillon 38.200

2 Kevin Harvick 38.231

3 Denny Hamlin 38.372

4 Ryan Newman 38.446

5 Carl Edwards 38.457

6 Kyle Busch 38.459

7 Trevor Bayne 38.520

8 Chase Elliott 38.545

9 Joey Logano 38.594

10 Jame McMurray 38.638

11 AJ Allmendinger 38.775

12 Kasey Kahne 38.371

13 Paul Menard 38.401

14 Ryan Blaney 38.404

15 Brad Keselowski 38.455

16 Chris Buescher 38.471

17 Martin Truex Jr. 38.497

18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 38.600

19 Jimmie Johnson 38.648

20 Matt Kenseth 38.654

21 Brian Scott 38.673

22 Greg Biffle 38.694

23 Casey Mears 38.757

24 Brian Vickers 38.797

25 Aric Almirola 38.627

26 Kurt Busch 38.690

27 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 38.693

28 Regan Smith 38.773

29 Clint Bowyer 38.785

30 Michael McDowell 38.817

31 Danica Patrick 38.898

32 Kyle Larson 38.921

33 Matt DiBenedetto 39.001

34 Landon Cassill 39.091

35 David Ragan 39.333

36 Cole Whitt 39.485

37 Josh Wise 39.571

38 Michael Annett 39.865

39 Jeffrey Earnhardt 39.908

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