In the twenty-year history of racing at Auto Club Speedway, only one pole winner has gone on to win the main event on Sunday. But that didn’t stop Austin Dillon, who in the third round of knockout qualifying put his No.3 American Ethanol Chevrolet at the top of the scoring pylon.
Dillon had a fast car in Friday’s lone practice session, and was confident that he would have a shot at the pole. In the first and second round of qualifying, the No.3 car ended up 13th and 3rd, setting the team up for the final round in which they were able to capture the pole award.
“My engineer told me we wanted to be 13th to 24th on the first run, we were 13th,” said Dillon after winning the pole. “But the car just didn’t feel as good as it had in practice, it felt a little tighter. We freed up the car a little bit, and the second run went pretty well, still a little snug. Going into the third round, I never veered from our plan, our line was the same the entire time, and I was looking at where guys were gaining, and losing to me. I was really good through (turns) 3 and 4, and guys would gain a little on me into (turn) 1. The final run I just kept my same game plan, tried to stay really smooth on the throttle, and it all worked out.”
It is Dillon’s second pole in 90 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, and his first in three starts at Auto Club Speedway.
Denny Hamlin had a fast car as well in qualifying, setting the track record in the second round of qualifying. The track record had not been touched in eleven years, marking a big milestone for the No.11 team. Hamlin was not able to back it up in the final round however, and ended up qualifying third.
Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the rest of the top-10 for Sunday’s event, which is a race the drivers are really looking forward to.
“This track is just a lot of fun,” said Kyle Larson, driver of the No.42 Target Chevrolet. “It’s got a really worn out surface. It’s always hot out here in Southern California, so the track gets really slick. It makes it fun for us because we have to search around for grip.”
Auto Club Speedway is a track that has become one of the favorites on the schedule for both drivers and fans. The track’s asphalt is the oldest on the schedule, having never been repaved since the track was built in 1996. The old surface provides for some great racing, and with the addition of the new lower-downforce package, Sundays race is forecasted to be wild.
“It’s definitely a weekend that we’re all looking forward to,” said Kevin Harvick. “This has probably been one of our better races over the past several years, so it’s going to be a fun weekend.”
The green flag will wave over Dillon and the rest of the field around 3:30 ET on Sunday, and if the hype lives up to its expectations, we should be in for a fantastic Hollywood-style race on FOX.