Busch leads all-Chevy front row in Fontana

Kurt Busch on pole in Fontana
Kurt Busch on pole in Fontana

Kurt Busch placed his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the pole position for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, round five of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. A fast lap of 38.889 seconds (185.124 mph) earned Busch his first pole of 2015 and 17th of his career. This is his fourth pole in 22 races at the 2.0-mile facility for Busch, a track record.

Busch’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS) set the second fastest lap of the qualifying session, giving Team Chevy a sweep of the front row for the second time in 2015.

“I just wanted to focus on the car and my lap and the line that I needed to run," said Busch after the qualifying session. “I felt confident with the cars ability to have that speed. You just don’t have to over think it. Luckily I was able to pull that off and not over think it and deliver for my team. Thanks to everybody with Haas Automation, Gene Haas, number one and Chevrolet, Monster Energy, it feels good."

Seven other Team Chevy drivers advanced to the third and final qualifying round at the super-fast California track. Kyle Larson will start fifth in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS followed by four time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS) in seventh.

Ryan Newman was ninth quick in the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS. He was followed by his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Paul Menard, who qualified the No. 27 FVP/Menards Chevrolets SS in the 11th starting spot.

Martin Truex, Jr., No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS rounded out the top-12 starters for Team Chevy; he will take the green from the 12th starting position.

Matt Kenseth (Toyota) qualified third and David Ragan (Toyota) was fourth to round out the top-five qualifiers.

Sunday’s 200-lap/400 mile race is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET. Live coverage will be available on FOX, MRN, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and NASCAR.com.

KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER

TALK ABOUT YOUR RUN:

“It was a great run for us in the No. 41 car. It started right when we unloaded with all the speed that Tony Gibson and everybody at Stewart Haas built into this car. The Adrenalin is going at a good pace right now and I got a good feel from yesterday when I visited the Haas headquarters to see the employees and the different customers that came by and to feel the love from them was extra-special. And to deliver for Gene Haas today here in Southern California is special. He’s based his company here and it’s great to come to this track and produce a pole in just our second week back. It really shows the strength of the team and how we need to capitalize on it now."

THINGS OBVIOUSLY SEEM TO BE WORKING WELL WITH TONY GIBSON. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP AND HOW THAT HAS BEEN WORKING SO FAR?

“I really enjoy working with Tony Gibson. He’s an old school guy that really knows the car well. He knows how to manage his people. He knows how to build the cars and each race track is different. He brings the best piece each and every week, whether it’s a Phoenix-style layout or a California Speedway-style layout, the way that he puts a lot of effort into the cars it’s done by the crew members. Our cars have a lot of man hours that are put into them. I’m proud to drive them. I really can’t thank him enough. We hit it off really well last year with three races together. And we qualified well in those three races and finished well and now here we are starting off strong this year. So, it’s great to have a veteran leader like him and to have all the crew members in place. This No. 41 car is very strong."

YOU SEEM TO HAVE ‘HIT THE GROUND RUNNING’. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT?

“By just putting the blinders on and focusing on the car. It’s my love. It’s my passion. It’s what I do. And I love to go out there and to drive fast. And when you have the chance to drive down into the corner as fast as we do, and have it stick as good as it does, it’s a feeling that you want to carry as long as you can. I’m able to do that because I’ve been given good cars to do such. I’m just staying focused. I’m keeping up with numbers, watching film, and knowing that if I give it my best effort, good things will come."

YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU APPRECIATE GENE HAAS AND EVERYTHING HE’S DONE FOR YOU. HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO WIN FOR SOMEBODY ELSE AS MUCH AS YOU DO FOR HIM?

“Not at this point. Right now, it’s Gene who believed in me and showed his belief and his strength and I’m happy to deliver. Am I behind? Yeah, I need to go out there and win more poles and win more races. But I have everything to thank through Gene Haas. I’ve worked with Roger Penske and with Jack Roush; those guys loved Michigan and they loved to win at Michigan Speedway. But right now, it’s about getting our Chevrolet and Haas Automation and Monster Energy cars as fast as we can get it every week and Gene Haas has given me that chance."

YOU CAME RIGHT BACK INTO THE CAR WITH NEW CHANGES THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH, BUT YOU DID WELL RIGHT AWAY. HOW CAN YOU ADAPT SO QUICKLY?

“Some of it is the preparation of the team and some of it is the cars coming back toward my driving style. I like cars with less downforce in the rear and that balance feel I think has complimented the way that I drive. So, honestly I think it has to do with some of the rules packages that NASCAR has implemented and you’ve got to drive the car a little bit looser."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING WITH THE HAAS AUTOMATION EMPLOYEES YESTERDAY?

“It’s a beautiful facility with over one million square feet under one roof. You have so many different departments making so many different machines and then you see the area in the back that looks like a sci-fi area of a five-axis plate. But it comes down to the people. And the people really are proud to work there. They are intelligent people and Gene has really structured facility that cranks out world-class CNC machines that are known domestically very strongly. Next is his attempt to attack F-1 and go after the international world with the Haas Automation brand. When you see it firsthand, it just blows you away and you’re really impressed with how his dream has created a situation for so many employees and Stewart Haas Racing and for his passion for racing, it’s great to be able to come in here and deliver a pole for him on this weekend and I’ll keep going for some more wins."

DO YOU FEEL AT ANYTIME UPON COMING BACK THAT YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE TO THE FANS OR TO YOURSELF OR TO ANYBODY?
“It’s about driving. I have said it before on how this is a privilege to have a chance to drive at this top level. When it is taken away from you or you have made a mistake and you don’t get a chance to go out there and do it on your terms it is tough. I don’t have anything to prove I have my job to do which is to go out there, drive and race for wins."

DO YOU HAVE ANY FEEL OF AN ENTHUSIASM AMONG YOUR GUYS?
“Yeah, they are such a strong group. They have been together for many, many years. We just need to bridge from where we were last year in those final three races into 2015. We didn’t get the start that we wanted and here we are now. So let’s just stay the course, run our pace, continue to put an effort forth on the cars and the worth ethic. And look through the notes on what we can do to develop as a team even further. Tony Gibson is right now one of the smartest guys in this garage area on how he manages building the cars, how he manages the crew and how he calls a race. I’m blessed to have the chance to work with him."

KEVIN HARVICK SAID HE DOES NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE SET-UPS ON YOUR CAR OR THE OTHER CARS WITHIN THE TEAM. HOW MUCH ARE YOU GUYS PAYING ATTENTION TO HIS CAR DURING THIS STREAK?
“You would be stupid not to pay attention to somebody that has won or finished second in the last seven races. It is a system that you can benefit from with sharing. With Stewart-Haas connected to Hendrick Motorsports and the open book that we have it is a matter of filtering through though what each crew chief, lead engineers and what each driver needs out of the race track at any moment. I think we can all run within a half a second of each other. It is finding those extra fine details that I think Kevin (Harvick) might not look at others for he is going to look straight to Rodney Childers (crew chief) for. I want to look straight to Tony Gibson for our extra speed and today we put it together and now we will keep building off that."

WHAT WOULD A WIN ON SUNDAY MEAN TO NOT ONLY YOU BUT TO HAAS THE COMPANY AND GENE HAAS?
“Well it would be huge to do it here in Southern California, Gene Haas’ backyard; Haas Automation’s group of people will be here in grooves on Sunday. The numbers of people coming to support this No. 41 car start with Haas Automation, the Chevrolet brand and Monster Energy is based here in Southern California. Alpine Star, I have a great group of Southern California companies, even Panic Switch Army, it’s great to have such a strong support here in SoCal. It would mean the world to me to deliver for Gene Haas to give him that win, but we want more. We are not just going to stop with this one pole."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 JIMMY JOHN’S/BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 2ND

A SECOND PLACE QUALIFYING EFFORT WILL CONTINUE YOUR MOMENTUM INTO THE WEEKEND. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?

“Yeah, I’m just really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing to see the No. 41 (Kurt Busch) and the No. 4 cars on the front row. I’m really happy for Kurt and Tony Gibson and all those guys with everything that they’ve gone through. I’m really proud of my guys for making good change. We never even really made a lap in practice that wasn’t impeded by something going wrong. And then I thought we had a lap that was pretty good through (Turns) 1 and 2 and great coming to the green. There were three cars on the apron where I wanted to run, coming to the checkered and wound up having to run the middle of the track. But it was still a good lap and we’ll definitely take a front row start."

WITH YOU AND KURT BUSCH SHARING THE FRONT ROW, HOW IDENTICAL ARE YOUR SET-UPS?

“I haven’t looked at a set-up in weeks (laughs). I can’t even tell you what springs, shocks, sway bars; I have no idea to be honest with you. We settled-in on what we thought our package was about halfway through last year and those guys fine-tune it to loose or tight. If we’re off, we’ll stop and regroup. But I haven’t looked in anybody else’s set-up in a long time."

THIS MORNING YOU TALKED ABOUT THE BIGGEST TIME-OUT YOU’VE REALLY HAD WAS WHEN YOU WERE A KID…..

“Oh, you know I thought about that and I got a time-out back in ’02 when I got thrown out at Martinsville. But we did cook hot dogs and eat hamburgers that day, so it was more or less a camping trip."

CAN YOU RELATE TO WHAT IT FELT LIKE FOR KURT BUSCH OR AJ ALLMENDINGER OR ANY OF THESE GUYS WHO HAVE HAD TO BE OUT OF THEIR CARS AND SIDELINED FOR WHATEVER REASON? HOW DRIVEN ARE THEY TO COME BACK?

“Yeah, I really can’t relate to any of those guys just for the fact that there’s a lot of things that I’ve never been through from everything that they went through. I know when things aren’t going good, or you think you should be running better and you’re determined to get back to where you want to be, you work hard. But, it’d be hard to relate from those particular instances."

HOW MUCH DID TAILWINDS AND HEADWINDS AFFECT THE CARS TODAY, IF AT ALL?

“Honestly, I didn’t even look. It looks like it’s blowing towards Turn 2, so I would say that it should be tighter down there, but it didn’t really seem to affect it. Maybe I should pay attention to more stuff that’s going on. But, Rodney (Childers) and those guys keep everybody pretty well informed."

LAST YEAR AT TIMES IT SEEMED LIKE IT WAS YOU, AND THEN THE REST OF THE SHR CARS. SINCE KURT BUSCH HAS BEEN BACK, HE HAS BEEN PRETTY FAST. IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS HAVE SOMEBODY TO RUN WITH THIS YEAR AT SHR. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THE TEAM?

“Well, that’s really good for our two cars and it’s really good for everybody at the organization to know that both sides of the shop are producing similar cars. And if you look back at the end of last year with (Tony) Gibson and Kurt (Busch) when they ran those last few races, they qualified well and they raced well and finished races and had a good foundation to go into this year. Obviously everything happened at the beginning of this year. It’s just taken a little bit longer to showcase exactly what they had. So, it’s exciting for the company, just for the fact that I know there’s been a lot of talk about the No. 41 and the No. 4 and the No. 10 (Danica Patrick) and all the different teams and how they’re running. But having the No. 41 run good the last two weeks with Kurt back is good for everybody at SHR."

WHICH CARS ARE ON WHICH SIDE OF THE SHOP?

“The No. 4 and the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) are paired together and the No. 41 and the No. 10 are together. That’s a good sign for the whole company because everything is tried to be built as similar as possible from the fabrication standpoint and the body shop. So that’s a good sign that you can take them from both sides of the shop and do what you need to do."

THE TIRE COMPOUND IS THE SAME IN THE XFINITY AND CUP GARAGES THIS WEEKEND. DOES RUNNING THE XFINITY RACE TOMORROW HELP FOR AN ADVANTAGE ON SUNDAY?

“Well, this is definitely a rhythm race track and this is definitely one that I would circle every time to run both days because the seams are kind of tricky. It seems like there’s going to be a ton of falloff in the tires. Those Xfinity cars have fallen off quite a bit in just a matter of ten laps. So, It think when you look at the falloff and the things that you have at this particular track, I want to be in the race car just because there are so many bumps and seams that have been sealed and patched and places you can slide into to have grip and not have grip and the more laps that you can make, the better off you’re going to be. Even if the tire was different, I’d probably vote to race just for the fact that this is just such a technique, rhythm-type race track."

YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T PAY MUCH ATTENTION TO THE NO. 41 CAR AND YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT HEADWINDS AND TAILWINDS. WHEN YOU’RE HOT, IS THAT THE CASE? AND WHEN YOU’RE NOT, ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO ALL THOSE THINGS?

“No, because that’s something that Rodney (Childers) and I talked about from the very beginning. We talk about a lot of things. But when we get to the race track, we’ve already made a lot of decisions. If we were off, we’d probably have to really pay attention to what we were doing and changing. But we’ve developed such a good package that I feel comfortable with and those guys know what I like in a simulation. They know that the grip numbers and things that I like to feel at different types of race tracks. We went through so many things last year, it’s something to where these cars are so engineered now, all I’m going to do is screw them up. So, from the beginning I’ve not worried about what springs, shocks; I just try to be a source of information to those guys and remember things that worked at certain race tracks and think about what I’m doing as a driver and where the stuff that they’re doing, they’ll tell me what they’re doing, and I can relate to previous race tracks where we’ve changed those types of things and you try to just be a source of information because it’s such a science project nowadays, that putting three fives and a two in like you did back in 2001 is not going to work."

SO, DURING THE STREAK, HAS THE CAR BEEN THE WAY YOU WANTED IT OFF THE TRUCK EVERY WEEK?

“No. And like I say, last week I think I heard Rodney say that we struggled a little bit off the truck to get the feel that you want because the tires have changed and today we didn’t really know what we had before qualifying because we hadn’t made a complete lap yet at full speed without something happening. The No. 19 (Carl Edwards) wrecked and the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne) was in front of us. We made three laps and didn’t finish any of them so we didn’t know where we sat. We made some good decisions and I relayed what I felt in the car and what I felt with the splitter and grip and we looked at past history. We go through a lot of notes, but when it comes to springs and shocks, there is no rhyme or reason in my mind how it even all works anymore. So, I just try to be a source of information to push the engineers in the right direction."

Lineup

Pos. No. Driver Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation 185.142 38.889 Leader
2 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's/ Budweiser 185.047 38.909 –0.020
3 20 Matt Kenseth DeWalt 184.966 38.926 –0.037
4 18 David Ragan Interstate Batteries 184.886 38.943 –0.054
5 42 Kyle Larson Target 184.337 39.059 –0.170
6 11 Denny Hamlin Sport Clips 184.233 39.081 –0.192
7 24 Jeff Gordon Axalta 184.087 39.112 –0.223
8 2 Brad Keselowski Wurth 184.063 39.117 –0.228
9 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar 183.725 39.189 –0.300
10 15 Clint Bowyer BlueDEF 183.407 39.257 –0.368
11 27 Paul Menard FVP / Menards 183.383 39.262 –0.373
12 78 Martin Truex Jr Furniture Row/Visser Precision 183.299 39.280 –0.391
13 22 Joey Logano AAA So. California 183.323 39.275 –0.386
14 48 Jimmie Johnson LOWE'S PRO SERVICES 183.257 39.289 –0.400
15 19 Carl Edwards Subway 182.978 39.349 –0.460
16 9 Sam Hornish Jr Medallion Bank/Mercury Marine 182.904 39.365 –0.476
17 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Nationwide 182.848 39.377 –0.488
18 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products 182.764 39.395 –0.506
19 5 Kasey Kahne Time Warner Cable 182.746 39.399 –0.510
20 14 Tony Stewart Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 182.445 39.464 –0.575
21 3 Austin Dillon Dow 182.343 39.486 –0.597
22 10 Danica Patrick Aspen Dental 182.140 39.530 –0.641
23 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield 181.800 39.604 –0.715
24 46 Michael Annett Cypress 180.397 39.912 –1.023
25 33 Brian Scott Whitetail 181.768 39.611 –0.722
26 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's 181.626 39.642 –0.753
27 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr NOS Energy Drink Ford Fusion 181.557 39.657 –0.768
28 7 Alex Bowman Nikko RC/Toy State Car 181.433 39.684 –0.795
29 16 Greg Biffle Clean Harbors Ford Fusion 181.392 39.693 –0.804
30 55 Brett Moffitt Janssen 181.219 39.731 –0.842
31 51 Justin Allgaier Brandt 180.995 39.780 –0.891
32 35 Cole Whitt Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters 180.560 39.876 –0.987
33 34 Chris Buescher Dockside Logistics 180.505 39.888 –0.999
34 26 Jeb Burton Maxim.com 180.023 39.995 –1.106
35 98 Josh Wise Curb Records/Lee Brice 179.775 40.050 –1.161
36 6 Trevor Bayne Advocare Ford Fusion 179.314 40.153 –1.264
37 13 Casey Mears No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS 179.051 40.212 –1.323
38 62 Brendan Gaughan TBA 178.607 40.312 –1.423
39 32 Mike Bliss King Taco 178.328 40.375 –1.486
40 40 Landon Cassill Precon Marine 177.773 40.501 –1.612
41 23 J.J. Yeley Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry 176.479 40.798 –1.909
42 83 Matt DiBenedetto Burger King 176.099 40.886 –1.997
43 38 David Gilliland Love's Travel Stops 175.434 41.041 –2.152

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