Kyle Larson Wins Pole In California

Kyle Larson
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

The driver who has finished second in the last three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races will start first on Sunday.

Moving up the track for his final run, series points leader Kyle Larson navigated rough, bumpy Auto Club (Fontana, California) Speedway in 38.493 seconds (187.047 mph) on Friday to win the pole for Sunday's Auto Club 400, the fifth race of the season.

The 24-year-old Larson edged Denny Hamlin by 0.014 seconds, as Hamlin covered the two-mile distance at 186.979 mph. The Coors Light Pole Award was Larson's first at Auto Club, first of the season and second of his career.

"It was an interesting qualifying for us," Larson said. "I ran the bottom in (Turns) 3 and 4… well, all day, really (during opening practice), and then there in the first two rounds. I knew everybody was running the top in 3 and 4, and my plan was to go up there in the second round, but thought I maybe got through (Turns) 1 and 2 okay enough to run the bottom, but I still lost time there.

"I knew the third round I was going to have to move up, but our Target Chevy was really good, really balanced up there. I was surprised. 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."

Brad Keselowski qualified third, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Phoenix winner Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] Hamlin, who holds the track record at Fontana and has won three poles at the two-mile track, thought he lost the top starting spot on corner entry in the third round of the knockout qualifying session.

"I thought it was definitely a lap that would be in contention for it," Hamlin said. "We improved our car just slightly from the previous run, and it looked like our time was slightly faster as well. I thought being the fastest car in round two with the 51 (38.51 seconds) and then improving in the final, I knew it put us very close.

"I didn't get quite through (Turns) 3 and 4 on entry as good as I needed to beat the 42 (Larson), it looked like. All my exits were very good, but my entries were just a little bit slow. I knew that it would be close, but running a 50 (38.507 seconds), I thought we probably would have got beat."

For two entirely different reasons, two of the favorites for Sunday's race didn't make qualifying attempts at all. Jimmie Johnson spun his No. 48 Chevrolet through the infield grass in practice, had to go to a backup car and opted not to make a run in a car that would have been hastily prepared.

"In qualifying, you're on the edge trying to create speed," Johnson explained. "If we crash this car, I'm going to have to go to one of my neighbors, one of my Hendrick neighbors (teammates) here and pull out their back-up car, and we're going to have to wrap it, change the interior, change the seat.

"I mean it's no easy feat. So, we are definitely behind the eight ball here. It's not a position we want to be in and we are going to make sure we get the back-up car right and take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in tomorrow's race practices."

Joey Logano, on the other hand, had no choice. His No. 22 Team Penske Ford didn't make it through technical inspection in time to participate in the opening 20-minute round.

"Obviously, everyone is trying to push it and trying to get every ounce of speed out of our cars as we can," Logano said. "I don't even know why we didn't make it through. We made it through, but by the time we got through and got strapped in and got the car ready to go on the track, we just ran out of time."

Logano will start 35th and Johnson 37th according to owner points rank.


Pos. # Driver Make Sponsor Time Behind Speed
1 42 Kyle Larson Chevy Target 38.493 0.000 187.047
2 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota Sport Clips 38.507 -0.014 186.979
3 2 Brad Keselowski Ford Wurth 38.606 -0.113 186.500
4 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota Bass Pro Shops 38.630 -0.137 186.384
5 31 Ryan Newman Chevy Caterpillar 38.684 -0.191 186.123
6 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota PEAK 38.702 -0.209 186.037
7 4 Kevin Harvick Ford Busch Beer 38.710 -0.217 185.998
8 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy McDonald's 38.768 -0.275 185.720
9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 38.835 -0.342 185.400
10 19 Daniel Suarez Toyota Subway 38.958 -0.465 184.814
11 3 Austin Dillon Chevy American Ethanol 38.980 -0.487 184.710
12 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy Farmers Insurance 39.139 -0.646 183.960
13 24 Chase Elliott Chevy NAPA Auto Parts 38.954 -0.461 184.833
14 77 Erik Jones Toyota Toyota Service Centers 38.973 -0.480 184.743
15 41 Kurt Busch Ford Haas Automation 39.005 -0.512 184.592
16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Fastenal 39.050 -0.557 184.379
17 14 Clint Bowyer Ford Rush Truck Centers 39.152 -0.659 183.899
18 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy Axalta 39.180 -0.687 183.767
19 21 Ryan Blaney Ford Motorcraft 39.207 -0.714 183.641
20 37 Chris Buescher Chevy Bush's Beans 39.286 -0.793 183.271
21 13 Ty Dillon Chevy Twisted Tea 39.322 -0.829 183.104
22 10 Danica Patrick Ford Aspen Dental 39.341 -0.848 183.015
23 27 Paul Menard Chevy Jack Links/Menards 39.217 -0.724 183.594
24 47 AJ Allmendinger TBD Chevy 39.240 -0.747 183.486
25 95 Michael McDowell Chevy LFR Woodie 39.408 -0.915 182.704
26 34 Landon Cassill Ford Love’s Travel Stops 39.409 -0.916 182.699
27 38 David Ragan Ford Camping World/Good Sam 39.640 -1.147 181.635
28 72 Cole Whitt Ford So. California Chevy Dealers 39.708 -1.215 181.324
29 15 Reed Sorenson Toyota 40.028 -1.535 179.874
30 83 Corey Lajoie Toyota Bubba Burger 40.039 -1.546 179.825
31 43 Aric Almirola Ford Smithfield 40.948 -2.455 175.833
32 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevy K1Speed 41.128 -2.635 175.063
33 55 Derrike Cope Chevy TBD 41.455 -2.962 173.682
34 51 Timmy Hill Chevy Bubba Burger 41.783 -3.290 172.319
35 22 Joey Logano Ford AAA Southern California 0.000 38.493 0.000
36 6 Trevor Bayne Ford AdvoCare 0.000 38.493 0.000
37 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy Lowe's 0.000 38.493 0.000
38 32 Matt DiBenedetto Ford Can-Am/Kappa 0.000 38.493 0.000
39 23 Gray Gaulding Toyota 0.000 38.493 0.000

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