California native Jimmie Johnson leads Team Chevy in qualifying at Auto Club Speedway

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Six team Chevy driver’s will start in the top-12.

FONTANA, Calif. – Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson led the way for Team Chevy in qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway with a third-place time of 38.516 (186.935 mph) in his No. 48 Lowe’s Spring is Calling Chevrolet SS.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

As teams and drivers get accustomed to the new ‘knockout’ qualifying format, new strategies continue to emerge. Tire conservation and the changing of lines was the name of the game during today’s session. 43 entrants took to the track for the first session 25-minute session before the field was cut to the 24 fastest cars. Those 24 cars moved to round two and were given 10 minutes to post another fast lap. The fastest 12 drivers then moved on to the third and final five-minute session, where the fastest single laps determined the pole winner and starting lineup. Six Team Chevy drivers ended the day in the top 12.

2011 Auto Club Speedway winner Kevin Harvick will start fourth in his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS followed by four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jeff Gordon, piloting the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS in sixth.

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, recorded his best qualifying effort thus far this year and will roll off from the 10th starting spot on Sunday. Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson, No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS will start 11th, and Martin Truex, Jr., No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet SS will start 12th.

Matt Kenseth (Toyota) was the pole winner, Brad Keselowski (Ford) was second and Clint Bowyer (Toyota) qualified fifth to round out the top-five.

The Auto Club 400 takes the green flag on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET and will be aired live on FOX.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S “SPRING IS CALLING” CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 3rd

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN: “Real consistent session for us. We did a nice job managing things and managing the balance of the race car. I felt like I got all that my car had on that last session, just came up a little bit short. I knew (turns) one and two was the best that I could get out of it. I just knew I was a little too tight, but (turns) three and four, man, I was flying over there. I just wish that up through (turns) one and two it was a touch better. The thing I am honestly most excited about is to start this good starting the weekend. I feel like Vegas, Phoenix, even Bristol we were really working hard to catch up and to be a factor and to have speed. We have unloaded with speed. That is good for us. We are kind of in familiar territory right now and back where we want to be starting a race weekend.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO GO OUT AND PICK UP SPEED AT TIMES? “Shocked. I think the cooling track conditions helped and certainly the shade in (turns) three and four. From watching the little fan scan thing the guys ran a higher line and got into the shade and found some speed and got back around. That was really cool to see. I think the No. 88 and the No. 99 went faster.”

WE’VE NOW GOT THIS QUALIFYING FORMAT IN FOUR RACES. HOW DO YOU LIKE IT? “I think it’s awesome. I really do. This track has a high wear factor for the tires and I was concerned that if you had a bad lap you couldn’t go out and improve, but to see a couple of cars do that in the first session was nice. I think there is an argument maybe for a second set of tires to come into play. But for an abrasive race track I think this was a very competitive knockout qualifying session.”

Team Chevy

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Qualifying report
Tags chevrolet ss, fontana, jimmie johnson, nascar-cup