Kyle Larson’s goal for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 is to break his streak of second-place finishes. In the first four races of the 2017 season, the Elk Grove, CA native just hasn’t been able to seal the deal.
But he will have a good shot at doing so on Sunday.
In Friday evening’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session, Larson knew he was going to have a strong car. He tried changing up his line in the final round and knocked Denny Hamlin off the top spot – putting his No.42 machine on pole.
“I feel like I messed up there in (turns) 1 & 2, and I got a little bit loose off the wall on entry and it got me to split the seam in 1 & 2,” said Larson on FS1. “But I was able to get committed to wide open pretty good off of 2. Yeah, I hadn’t ran up high in 3 & 4 at all in practice or qualifying here, so didn’t really know what I would have when I got there. But I ran in a good ways and it stuck.”
It is Larson’s second career MENCS pole and his first at Fontana.
“Really happy though,” said Larson. “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. This is awesome. Can’t say enough about everybody at our race shop for all the hard work they’ve been putting in. Got a little team dinner tonight, so this is a good way to celebrate.”
Larson didn’t have to deal with some of his biggest competition during Friday evening’s qualifying session however. Numerous cars, including Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano, weren’t able to make it out on track in time to complete a qualifying lap in the first round. Johnson had wrecked earlier in the day in practice, and Logano and several others weren’t able to clear through NASCAR’s inspection process quick enough.
The drivers who weren’t able to make a qualifying lap will all start at the rear of the field, which second-place qualifier Hamlin believes won’t be that big of a deal.
“Track position is important no matter where we go,” said Hamlin after qualifying. “I don’t think it’s as important here as somewhere like Phoenix where it’s a little bit tougher to pass. I think at this track, if you have a good car you can make up positions. I think it’s probably less of a disadvantage here as it is maybe anywhere – so those guys are fast enough and they will make it up to the front pretty soon.”
Sunday’s Auto Club 400 will be a race of comers and goers. Those that start at the rear will most likely make their way up to the front at some point, and vice versa with the ones starting up front.
Four and five wide racing at 200MPH under beautiful Southern California sunshine – you can watch it all happen this Sunday at 3:30ET on FOX.