Austin Dillon will start on the pole for Auto Club 400 by virtue of his fastest lap in the second round of qualifying.
Yes, the second round. None of the 12 drivers who advanced to the third and final round left pit road with enough time to make it back around to start/finish, clock in a qualifying lap. As a result, NASCAR reverted to the previously completed Round 2 to set the top 12. Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing Camaro had been fastest in both the first and second rounds, and the pole honor was his.
“That was fun right there,” said the North Carolinan. “The lineup goes back to round two. Andy [Houston, my spotter] did a great job getting us a hole. Our Dow Chevy was good the whole day — I felt like it was the fastest car here. It feels good to get that pole because that was wild right there. Everybody was fighting for it.
“The 18 (Kyle Busch) took off, and I kind of was edging back and forth with my spotter counting down the time,” Dillon explained. “I knew 45s was our drop-dead time, so just kind of waited. But no one wanted to take it, and I was good with that because I knew it reverted back to us. Really proud of our guys!”
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will join Dillon on the front row, while completing the top five are Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano.
Starting sixth through 10th will be Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Blaney.
Elliott got loose and spun off Turn 2 early in the first round of qualifying but did not hit anything. NASCAR approved the team changing tires so that Elliott’s Hendrick Camaro could continue in qualifying.
Brad Keselowski (13th), Kyle Larson (15th), Erik Jones (18th), and Kurt Busch (21st) were among those who failed to advance to the final round. Busch was the only driver in the second round of qualifying to run a lap by himself, making his run early in the session while the other 23 drivers all went on track with less than two minutes left on the clock.
Failing to advance out of the first round was defending race winner Martin Truex Jr., who qualified 27th.
Ryan Newman’s car failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, and his car chief was ejected for the remainder of the weekend. Newman will also lose 15 minutes of practice in final session Saturday afternoon.
UP NEXT: Second practice at 12:05 p.m. ET Saturday.