Kyle Larson will start on the pole in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Larson, earning his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole, posted a 38.493, 187.047 mph. in the final round of qualifying.
Larson ended round one sitting fourth on the leaderboard and round two sitting sixth on the chart.
“I haven’t seen a lap tracker, but I felt like I messed up there in (Turns) 1 and 2 and I got a little bit loose off the wall on entry and it got me to split the seam in (Turns) 1 and 2, but I was able to get committed to wide-open pretty good off of (Turn) 2 and then, yeah, I hadn’t run up high in (Turns) 3 and 4 at all in practice or qualifying here,” Larson said after his lap. “Didn’t really know what I would have when I got there, but ran a good ways and it stuck. Really happy though, our Target team has been amazing to start the season and to get a pole is great. I haven’t gotten a pole since my rookie season.”
The young racer enters the weekend with a ton of momentum after scoring three consecutive runner-up finishes in the last three events. The California native won the pole by 0.014 seconds.
Starting second will be Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota. Hamlin was on the pole just before Larson knocked him off the top spot. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran will make his third top 10 start of the year.
“I thought it was definitely a lap that would be in contention for it. 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 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 (Kyle 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, I thought we probably would have got beat.”
Hamlin left round one sitting fifth and round two sitting first on the leaderboard.
Brad Keselowski rounded out the top three in the final round. Keselowski, piloting the Wurth Ford Fusion, posted a 38.606, 186.500 mph.
Several drivers had issues getting through inspection and did not post times. Those included Gray Gaulding, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Matt DiBenedetto. Jimmie Johnson will be moving over to a backup car after going through the grass late in practice. That team elected to sit qualifying out to prepare for the race.
There were no DNQs as only 39 showed up to race.