FONTANA, Calif. – Matt Kenseth was the last man standing in knockout qualifying Friday at Auto Club Speedway, earning the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400.
Kenseth had the fastest lap in the third and final round of knockout qualifying at the two-mile oval Friday afternoon. His 38.438-second lap at 187.315 mph was enough to give him his first pole of the young season and the 12th of his career.
“It is kind of unexpected,” said Kenseth. “This knockout qualifying, before last week (at Bristol), was really a struggle. I think we were like 29th at Vegas, so I haven’t been doing a very good job. We really didn’t have much of a strategy. Honestly all three laps I just went as hard as I could.
“Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and this whole Dollar General group did a great job with adjustments, did a great job with strategy down here (by) being ready for every round. It feels good to be on the pole.”
Brad Keselowski qualified second, putting him on the front row for the fourth-straight race. Jimmie Johnson, who topped practice earlier in the day, was third fastest. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer completed the top five.
Jeff Gordon qualified sixth and was followed by Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart. Rookie Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. were the other two drivers to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying.
Gordon was the first car to take time in the second round of knockout qualifying, setting the pace with a 38.397-second lap at 187.515 mph. He was followed by Kenseth, Larson, Johnson and Bowyer.
Among those that failed to advance past round two in qualifying were Denny Hamlin, defending race winner Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Greg Biffle.
Harvick had the fastest lap in the first round of qualifying, circling the two-mile oval in 38.303 seconds at 187.975 mph. He was followed by Johnson, Logano, Kenseth and Gordon.
Among those who failed to advance from the first round of qualifying were Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick. Only 43 cars entered Sunday’s race, meaning there were no cars that failed to qualify.