Martin Truex Jr. scores second consecutive pole winning top spot at Auto Club Speedway

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 16: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, poses with the Busch Pole Award after qualifying on the pole for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 16, 2018 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

For the second consecutive week Martin Truex Jr. won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole, this time at Auto Club Speedway. Unlike last week however, his competition was a bit limited Friday.

A total of 13 of the 37 cars entered failed to pass NASCAR’s pre-qualifying inspection process three times and missed the three-round session. Chief among them the four cars belonging to Hendrick Motorsports.

Among those who did make runs Kevin Harvick, last week’s race winner, led the first two rounds setting a new track record of 38.147 seconds, 188.744 mph in the first round.

It was the lap by Truex of 38.592, 186.567 mph with 1:47 left in the final five minutes that counted for his 17th career pole, and his first at Auto Club Speedway.

“It’s been awesome all day long,” Truex said. “We tried to stay on scuffs that first practice and ran our best laps on scuffs this morning. We thought that played into our hands in qualifying during the second round and we got the seam a little bit the first time and that bit me. But luckily in the third round we were able to put a nice round together. I wouldn’t say it was perfect but it was a pretty solid lap.”

Kyle Busch will start second followed by Kyle Larson the defending pole winner and last year’s race winner.

“We would have liked to have been on the pole but got a little tighter each run,” Larson said.  “That is kind of what ended up hurting us a little bit and lost some speed off Turn 2.”

Erik Jones and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five.

Joey Logano will start sixth, Kurt Busch seventh, with Ryan Blaney, and Ryan Newman eighth and ninth. A wiggle during his qualifying lap left Harvick with a 10th place starting position.

“We had a little bit of the same issue in practice,” Harvick said. “Where we just fell off too much the second time out on tires and just where it was at for me I was having trouble keeping the throttle down on the exit to get the run down the straightaway.”

The only upside for those who did not qualify is they will be on new tires for Sunday.   That includes the four Hendrick cars whose issues appeared to be with the rear deck lid.

“We’ve got to go back, we have to talk obviously, internally, and talk with NASCAR,” Jeff Andrews, Vice President of Competition at Hendrick said.  “We felt like we were making changes, obviously in the area effected and just we were not seeing the results when we went back through.”

“We have equipment in the shop to scan our cars that we feel like is very accurate and we have had good results with up until this point,” he added.  “This is… obviously, there was more than just our four cars, so we need to work with NASCAR on it.  I know they don’t want to see this either and we have to figure out a solution going forward.”

With 37 cars entered no one was sent home. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 will get the green flag Sunday just after 3:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on Fox.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.