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NASCAR Cup: Martin Truex Jr. claims pole at Auto Club Speedway

FONTANA, CA – MARCH 16: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, poses with the Busch Pole Award after qualifying on the pole for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 16, 2018 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Martin Truex Jr. claimed his second-consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole Friday with a 38.592-second/186.567 mph lap in the third of three rounds of qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., to claim the top starting spot for Sunday’s Auto Club 400. It’s his first-career pole at ACS the 17th pole of his career, overall.

“Yeah, first time, ever,” Truex said of winning back-to-back poles for the first time in his career. “It’s definitely pretty cool, really. I just am proud of everybody — 5-hour Energy, Bass Pro Shops and Toyota. It’s been awesome all day long, and we tried to stay on scuffs that first practice and ran our best laps on scuffs this morning. We thought that played into our hands in qualifying during the second round, and we got the seam a little bit the first time, and that bit me. But luckily, in the third round, we were able to put a nice round together. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was a pretty solid lap. I am happy with everyone at the team. I was out visiting the guys out at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Engines. Thanks to them for all the great horsepower; it takes a lot to get around here. It’s been a fun week and a great way to cap off the day. Looking forward to getting in this thing tomorrow.”

Toyota swept the front row on the starting grid Friday with Kyle Busch qualifying second.

“I thought our run was really good,” Busch said. “We had a fast car. We kind of just threw away the first round, and we were pretty good that second round. We made some minor changes for the third, and I thought I got through one and two pretty well, but that was all I could get out of that. I felt pretty positive about the Interstate Batteries Camry and being able to qualify on the pole. Then, I got into turn three and threw it all away; just messed up a little bit out there. Wasn’t bad, but getting back to the gas and exiting the corner, I was wide open the rest of the way off, and by the time I got to the exit, there was just not enough speed. I am not pushing enough speed in the car through the corner, and we just fell too far behind. Good effort, and that will be a good starting spot for us.”

Kyle Larson qualified third, and Erik Jones was fourth to give Toyota three of the four starting spots in the first two rows. Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in qualifying.

Kevin Harvick qualified 10th after dominating the top of the speed charts until the final round of qualifying. He was the fastest in the day’s only practice session and in the first two rounds of qualifying. His 38.147-second/188.744 mph lap in the opening round was the fastest, overall, in qualifying and set a new track qualifying record.

“We were just tight as we went through every round,” Harvick said. “We had the same thing in practice where the second round was just so much tighter than the first round. We tried to adjust on it, and we made it better entering the corner and through the middle of the corner, but as we got to the exit, right at that three-quarter mark, I just kept getting tighter and tighter, and then, I got up the race track and got hung on the seam and got loose and kind of screwed it up.”

Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola posted the three fastest laps in practice earlier in the day, but when qualifying rolled around, Bowyer and Almirola’s teams were among the 13 teams that had issues getting through pre-qualifying inspection that resulted in not making qualifying runs. As a result, only 24, the exact number that advance from round one to two, made official qualifying attempts in the opening round.

“Man, Fridays are just our Achilles heel right now,” Almirola said. “Vegas, we showed up and I was out of control and we weren’t very fast, and I think we qualified 29th, and then, last weekend, we qualified a little bit in qualifying, so Fridays have just not been good for us. This weekend, we came here with a heavy focus on qualifying. Our car was really fast right off the truck. We ended up third in practice, and I was really excited about qualifying, and then, we didn’t make it out to qualify. I’m disappointed, because our Smithfield Ford Fusion was really fast, but it is what it is. We’ll get ready for the race now, and one of these days we’re gonna get Friday figured out, and it’ll just make it a lot easier and cleaner weekend, but, nonetheless, a lot of cars didn’t make it through. We’re gonna start two spots better than we did in Vegas, and we’re gonna start on sticker tires, so we have that to look forward to.”

With all who made a qualifying lap in round one advancing to round two, several teams/drivers used to qualifying in the back cracked the top-24. Four of those teams/drivers opted to sit-out round two, deciding instead to save their tires for race day and accepting starting spots 21st through 24th. But, because of the large number of cars not getting onto the track in qualifying and getting to start the race on new tires, NASCAR will give teams the option of buying an extra set of tires on which to start the race, provided they turn-in their qualifying tires to Goodyear, not making any Saturday practice laps on them.

Below, is the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway:
Row 1 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 2 — Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Erik Jones (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 3 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 4 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Ford)
Row 5 — Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford)
Row 6 — Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet)
Row 7 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Paul Menard (No. 21 Ford)
Row 8 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Ricky Stenhouse (No. 17 Ford)
Row 9 — Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford)
Row 10 — Darrell Wallace Jr. (No. 43 Chevrolet), Gray Gaulding (No. 23 Toyota)
Row 11 — David Ragan (No. 38 Ford), Michael McDowell (No. 34 Ford)
Row 12 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 00 Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 55 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota), Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford)
Row 14 — Aric Almirola (No. 10 Ford), Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — William Byron (No. 24 Chevrolet), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 16 — Chase Elliott (No. 9 Chevrolet), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 95 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Timmy Hill (No. 51 Chevrolet), Ross Chastain (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet)

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Posted by on March 17, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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