FONTANA, Calif. – In perhaps the most bizarre Busch Pole Qualifying session in the history of the knockout era, Austin Dillon captured the top spot for the Auto Club 400 on Friday afternoon.
Dillon won his fourth career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole by virtue of his round-two time of 39.982 seconds (180.081 mph), after no one in the final round officially started their lap before the five-minute clock expired.
As such, the scoring pylon reverted to the last set of posted times, lining up the first six rows by their second round speeds and putting Dillon’s No. 3 Dow Chevrolet on top for the second time in Fontana.
“That was fun right there. That goes back to round two,” Dillon noted. “Andy Houston did a great job getting us a hole. Our Dow car has been good the whole day. I felt like it was the fastest car here and it feels good to get that pole. That was wild there. Everybody was fighting for it.
“The 18 (Kyle Busch) took off and I was kind of edging back-and-forth … and my spotter was counting down the time,” added Dillon. “I knew 45 (seconds) was our drop-dead time coming off pit road. I just kind of waited and no one wanted to make it. At that point, we knew it reverted back to us.”
Dillon was the only driver to crack the 40-second bracket during the second round of qualifying.
After a lap of 40.137 seconds (179.386 mph) with his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford in round two, Kevin Harvick will join Dillon on the front row for Sunday afternoon’s 400-mile event.
Aric Almirola and ISM Raceway winner Kyle Busch will share the second row of the grid on Sunday, with defending series champion Joey Logano completing the top five.
Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, six-time Fontana winner Jimmie Johnson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. filled out the rest of the front dozen.
Brad Keselowski (40.448/178.006) was the first driver below the cut line to advance out of the second round and will start 13th in the No. 2 Wurth Ford on Sunday.
Other notables starting in the midfield include 2017 Fontana winner Kyle Larson (15th), rookie Daniel Hemric (17th), Kurt Busch (21st) and Alex Bowman (23rd).
Defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. failed to advance out of the first round and will roll off 27th after being impeded by Cody Ware during his qualifying run.
“He (Ware) ran the bottom in (turns) three and four, which is where I wanted to be,” Truex noted. “I was hoping he would go high, since he just got out of the pits, to get his momentum up like normal. He just missed the bottom there and that obviously hurt our speed off turn four.
“It’s unfortunate. We missed it today off the hauler,” continued Truex. “We were pretty tight in practice, and then we were way too loose there on both sides of it. We’ve been struggling a little bit on Fridays, but I know we’ll be right tomorrow. We’ll have some cars to pass on Sunday, but I know we can do it.”
To view the complete starting lineup, advance to the next page.