It came as no great surprise that Kyle Larson won the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Friday qualifying at Auto Club Speedway.
After all, Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet clearly was the fastest car on the 2-mile track all day. He also was at the top of the speed chart for Friday’s lone Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice.
Larson earned his first pole of the season — and the second of his career — with a fast lap of 187.047 miles per hour in the final round of qualifying. Starting alongside him on the front row Sunday will be Denny Hamlin, who was second-fastest at 186.979 mph in Round 3.
Rounding out the top five in qualifying were Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman.
For Larson, it was a continuation of the hot start to his season. He comes into Sunday’s event having finished second in the last three races, and leading in the Monster Energy points standings.
“I’m really happy for our Target team,” Larson said. “It has been amazing to start the season and to get a pole is great. I haven’t gotten a pole since my rookie season. So yeah, this is awesome. I can’t say enough about everybody at our race shop for all the hard work they have been putting in.
“We’ve got a little team dinner tonight, so this will be a good way to celebrate.”
Five drivers did not even attempt qualifying — one by choice and four because their cars did not clear pre-qualifying inspection in time.
Jimmie Johnson, who owns a record six wins at Auto Club Speedway, was the driver who elected not to attempt qualifying after going to a backup car and not being able to get it on track in time for any practice. He tore up his primary car when he lost control of it and slid through the infield grass during Friday’s lone practice session.
The four drivers who could not get on track for qualifying because their cars didn’t clear inspection in time were Joey Logano Logano, Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto and Gray Gaulding.
For complete qualifying results, click here.