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Larson Climbs To Pole At Auto Club Speedway

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 25 2017

Kyle Larson will shoot for his first Cup win of the season from the pole position on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

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Kyle Larson, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver who has finished second in his last three Monster Energy Cup Series races, won the pole for this weekend’s race on Friday.

Larson laid down a lap in 38.493 seconds (187.047 mph) at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in winning the pole.

That lap was better than second-fastest Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing by .014 seconds.

“It was an interesting qualifying for us,” Larson said. “I ran the bottom in (turns) 3 and 4… well, all day, really (during opening practice), and then there in the first two rounds. I knew everybody was running the top in 3 and 4, and my plan was to go up there in the second round, but thought I maybe got through (Turns) 1 and 2 okay enough to run the bottom, but I still lost time there.

“I knew the third round I was going to have to move up, but our Target Chevy was really good, really balanced up there. I was surprised. I wasn’t really sure what I would have, because on our up-to-speed laps up there I was a little bit tight taking off and then I would be kind of loose off, so I was expecting to have that.

“But it stuck really well, and, yeah, I saw the lap pop up on my dash and I was pretty pumped. Can’t say enough about everybody on our Target team. They did an amazing job all day.”

The pole was the second of Larson’s career and first of the season.

Asked what he had to do on Sunday to break free of his bridesmaid streak, Larson, 24, said, “Honestly, probably just keep doing what we are doing and if we get a late restart just… here is so different though because you’ve got to be so aggressive and you can get ate up really fast if you are not aggressive here.  It’s going to be a pick and choose little bit better there on those late restarts and just try and be mistake free like we have been and hopefully that is what it takes to win.  It’s nice when you have fast race cars because it makes it a little easier to run up front and get wins.  Yeah, we will see how it goes.”

Brad Keselowski qualified third, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Phoenix winner Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

Keselowski was asked about if starting third was a good thing. “No, not really,” he said,  “I hit the wall, which is really embarrassing, but I was trying to get all it had and just reached a little too far.”

Hamlin has won three poles at the Fontana, Calif. track.

“I thought it was definitely a lap that would be in contention for it,” Hamlin said. “We improved our car just slightly from the previous run, and it looked like our time was slightly faster as well. I thought being the fastest car in round two with the 51 (38.51 seconds) and then improving in the final, I knew it put us very close.

“I didn’t get quite through (Turns) 3 and 4 on entry as good as I needed to beat the 42 (Larson), it looked like. All my exits were very good, but my entries were just a little bit slow. I knew that it would be close, but running a 50 (38.507 seconds), I thought we probably would have got beat.”

Jimmie Johnson spun his No. 48 Chevrolet through the infield grass in practice, had to go to a backup car and opted not to make a run in a car that would have been hastily prepared.

“In qualifying, you’re on the edge trying to create speed,” Johnson explained. “If we crash this car, I’m going to have to go to one of my neighbors, one of my Hendrick neighbors (teammates) here and pull out their back-up car, and we’re going to have to wrap it, change the interior, change the seat.

“I mean it’s no easy feat. So, we are definitely behind the eight ball here. It’s not a position we want to be in and we are going to make sure we get the back-up car right and take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in tomorrow’s race practices.”

Joey Logano, on the other hand, failed to pass pre-session inspection in time to take a qualifying run.

“It’s nerve-racking, that’s for sure,” he said of trying to get through inspection in time. “You want to get out there and qualify and see what your car’s got, but the fact of the matter is we’ll shotgun the field somewhere back there and pass some cars.  It will be fun passing cars.  The silver lining is we have a fast race car.”

Both Johnson and Logano will start the race from the rear of the field.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – Auto Club 400

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, California

Friday, March 24, 2017

  1. (42)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 187.047 mph.
  2. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 186.979 mph.
  3. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 186.500 mph.
  4. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 186.384 mph.
  5. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 186.123 mph.
  6. (20)  Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 186.037 mph.
  7. (4)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 185.998 mph.
  8. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 185.720 mph.
  9. (18)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 185.400 mph.
  10. (19)  Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 184.814 mph.
  11. (3)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 184.710 mph.
  12. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 183.960 mph.
  13. (24)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 184.833 mph.
  14. (77)  Erik Jones #, Toyota, 184.743 mph.
  15. (41)  Kurt Busch, Ford, 184.592 mph.
  16. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 184.379 mph.
  17. (14)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 183.899 mph.
  18. (88)  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 183.767 mph.
  19. (21)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 183.641 mph.
  20. (37)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 183.271 mph.
  21. (13)  Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 183.104 mph.
  22. (10)  Danica Patrick, Ford, 183.015 mph.
  23. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 183.594 mph.
  24. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 183.486 mph.
  25. (95)  Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 182.704 mph.
  26. (34)  Landon Cassill, Ford, 182.699 mph.
  27. (38)  David Ragan, Ford, 181.635 mph.
  28. (72)  Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 181.324 mph.
  29. (15)  Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 179.874 mph.
  30. (83)  Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 179.825 mph.
  31. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 175.833 mph.
  32. (33)  Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 175.063 mph.
  33. (55)  Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 173.682 mph.
  34. (51)  Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 172.319 mph.
  35. (22)  Joey Logano, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  36. (6)  Trevor Bayne, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  37. (48)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
  38. (32)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 0.000 mph.
  39. (23)  Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 25 2017
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