By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
For the second week in a row, Martin Truex, Jr. will lead the field to green after powering his way to the pole during Friday’s qualifying session for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
With a lap of 38.592 seconds, 186.567 mph, Truex was the only driver in the final round of qualifying to put up a faster lap than the round before, paving his way toward his 17th career pole and his first at the two-mile California track.
“It’s definitely pretty cool, really,” said Truex. “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.”
Joining Truex on the front row will be Kyle Busch, with Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, and Austin Dillon rounding out the top-five.
Kevin Harvick, who has won the last three races in a row, posted a new track record of 38.147 seconds, 188.744 mph in round one and followed it up by topping the board in round two, but was only able to turn in the 10th fastest time in the final round.
Qualifying wasn’t without its drama, however. Inspection delays have seen a decrease across the board this year with the implementation of the new Optical Scanning Station, but at Auto Club Speedway, we saw the largest number of cars to miss qualifying due to their failure to make it through pre-qualifying inspection.
A total of 13 cars would not make it out to the grid to qualify, including: Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Timmy Hill, Ross Chastain, and Cole Whitt.
NASCAR Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller, addressed the inspection failures and what led to such a high number of cars running into issues during qualifying.
“The first time through, there was a lot of failures at all of the stations,” Miller said. “It was basically kind of split between chassis, weights and measures, and the body scan. Second time through, it seems like most of it has been centered around the actual body scan itself. This is the most aerodynamic track that we’ve gone to, so, you know, it’s kind of no surprise that they would be pushing the limits here more than some of the other places on that.”