Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t won a race yet this season, but he’s doing very well in qualifying.
Truex, the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, captured his second pole of the season on Friday, claiming the top spot in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 with an average lap speed of 186.567 mph.
Truex was third-fastest in the first round and eighth-fastest in the second round.
Kyle Busch will line up second, Kyle Larson third, Erik Jones fourth and Austin Dillon fifth.
Rounding out the top 12: Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher.
The pole is the 17th of Truex’s career and first at Auto Club Speedway.
“During Round 2 I got off the seam a little bit and lost some time but luckily in the third round I was able to put a good lap together,” Truex said. “I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was a pretty solid lap.
“Thanks to those at (Toyota Racing Development). It takes a lot to get around here. It’s been a fun week and it’s a great way to cap off the day.”
Harvick was the fastest in Rounds 1 and 2 and his first-round average lap speed actually set a new track qualifying record. But he had issues in Round 3 keeping his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford around the seams on the track.
“There was really no difference (between rounds). The car just got a little tighter in (Turns) 1 and 2 each round,” he said. “It will be interesting with all these cars starting in the back on sticker tires. You’re penalized because you go out here and compete in qualifying and pass tech.”
Harvick easily topped the speed chart in Round 2, with an average lap speed of 187.720 mph, which was a bit slower than his first-round attempt.
Kyle Busch ended up second-fastest (187.446 mph), but he was slightly faster in the second round.
Larson was third, Blaney fourth and Logano fifth. Also advancing to the final round were Buescher, Jones, Truex, Austin Dillon, Newman and Keselowski.
Four cars who advanced to the second round elected not to make an attempt – Michael McDowell, David Ragan, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Reed Sorenson.
Among those who failed to advance to the final round were Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Darrell Wallace Jr.
“I suck at this qualifying thing,” Wallace said. “I thought I put enough out there, but I guess not.”
It was no surprise Harvick led the way in the first round but what was surprising was only 24 of the 37 cars entered were able to make a lap in the Round 1.
Harvick’s average lap speed of 189.066 mph also set a new track qualifying record.
Larson was second-fastest, Truex third, Blaney fourth and Jones completed the top-five.
Nearly 20 cars had not yet cleared pre-qualifying inspection prior to the start of the first round and many ended up failing to log a qualifying attempt.
Among those who never cleared inspection were A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez and Cole Whitt.
NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Scott Miller, didn’t mince words as to the reason for the problem.
“The issue is the cars aren’t legal,” Miller said. “Well, the first time through, there were a lot of failures at all the stations. Second time through, most of it has been centered around the actual body scan itself.
“This is the most aerodynamic track we’ve been to so no surprise that they would be pushing the limits here more than some of the other tracks.”
Almirola and Bowyer were among some of the fastest cars in Friday’s practice, hurting their chances for a good start to the race.
“Our car is really fast. That’s the good news,” Almirola said. “Everything else is bad news.”
Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafon, said there is always an issue of risk versus reward when it comes to the inspection process.
“You can be conservative and get through inspection but you might not run very good in the race,” he said. “And that’s not good for my job security.”
|1||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||38.592||186.567|
|16||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||39.169||0.577||183.819|
|19||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||39.377||0.785||182.848|