FONTANA, Calif. – Martin Truex Jr. earned his second-straight Monster Energy NASCAR CUp Series pole on Friday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway.
Truex, the defending series champion, became the first competitor this year to earn the recently renamed Busch Pole Award twice. He won the pole last weekend at Arizona’s ISM Raceway.
The driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-Hour Energy Toyota scored the pole with a 38.592-second lap at 186.567 mph during the final round of knockout qualifying. Kyle Busch gave Toyota a sweep of the front row with a 38.619-second lap around the two-mile oval.
“I’m just proud of everybody. This 5-Hour/Bass Pro Toyota has been awesome all day long,” said Truex, who earned back-to-back poles for the first time in his career. “We ran our best lap on scuffs this morning, so I thought that played into our hands a little bit in qualifying.
“In round two I got the seam a little bit and lost some time and that bit me, but luckily in the third round I was able to put a lap together. I wouldn’t say it was perfect but it was a pretty solid lap.”
Kevin Harvick, who has won the last three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and will look for his fourth-straight victory during Sunday’s Auto Club 400, broke the track record in the first round of qualifying with a 38.147-second lap at 188.744 mph.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was fastest in the first and second rounds of qualifying, but he was unable to maintain that speed in the final round of qualifying and had to settle for 10th. Harvick said he expected there to be falloff during his final qualifying attempt, but he also blamed a seam in turns one and two for also costing him time.
“In practice I think we fell off six or seven tenths from the sticker to the second run,” Harvick said. “We made that only two tenths in qualifying today. Then it was just another step. The seam obviously made it worse. It wouldn’t have been as bad if I wouldn’t have got it up on the seam.”
Kyle Larson, the defending race winner, qualified third ahead of Erik Jones and Austin Dillon. Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher completed the top dozen.
A large portion of teams had issues making it through pre-qualifying inspection, with only 24 of the 37 cars at the track managing to clear inspection and turn a lap before the end of the first round of qualifying.
That meant 13 cars failed to make a qualifying lap and those 13 cars included several major names. Among them were all four of the Hendrick Motorsports entries driven by Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron.
Other drivers who also failed to complete a lap in qualifying because of inspection issues were Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez, A.J. Allmendinger, Cole Whitt, Ross Chastain and Timmy Hill.
Those who failed to make a qualifying lap will be lined up based on points, with Hamlin lining up 25th ahead of Bowyer in 26th and Almirola in 27th.