Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, claimed his 10th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole on Friday by turning a 38.626-second lap at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., during pole qualifying for Sunday's 400-mile race at the track.
"This is a horsepower and good race car race track, and we've improved in those areas," Hamlin said.
I ran the bottom all during practice, I didn't want to change the way I practiced.
Kyle Busch posted the second-fastest lap during qualifying from behind the wheel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. His lap time of 38.807 seconds made for an all-JGR front row.
"I felt like our car was pretty decent," Busch said. "I missed just a little in turns three and four."
Toyota teams did their manufacturer proud, claiming the top-three spots on the starting grid at the NASCAR track closest to Toyota's North American headquarters. Mark Martin tied Busch's lap of 38.807 seconds with his lap in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. As a result, Martin will start third on Sunday.
Positions at the front of the starting grid were highly contested. In addition to the tie for second and third, the fourth and fifth-place drivers also posted matching lap times. Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet posted 38.812-second qualifying laps. Biffle will start fourth on Sunday and Kahne fifth.
Joey Logano appeared to make a mistake on his qualifying lap, drifting high enough up the race track to stir up dust in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but his 38.878-second lap was good enough to put him on the provisional pole for a time. He wound up eighth by the end of the qualifying session.
The lap may not have been pretty, but many of the drivers who went out after Logano followed suit. Hamlin wasn't one of them, though.
"I ran the bottom all during practice," Hamlin said. "I didn't want to change the way I practiced."
Qualifying outside the top-five in front of Logano were Ryan Newman in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Newman was sixth with a lap time of 38.850 seconds and Harvick seventh with a 38.877-second lap.
Bumps and seams in the worn racing surface were obstacles for several drivers during qualifying, but the old surface suited Harvick just fine.
"Any of these worn out tracks are fun to race at," Harvick said.
Forty-six drivers attempted to claim the 43 spots on the starting grid. Robby Gordon failed to make his second-consecutive race and Joe Nemechek was saddled with his first DNQ (did not qualify) since 2010.