Austin Dillon's strong start to the season continued with a pole-winning run in Sprint Cup qualifying Friday at Auto Club Speedway. His speed of 188.482 mph highlighted a session that saw several drivers eclipse the track-record set by Kyle Busch 10 years ago.
The pole was the second of Dillon's career, following him taking the top position in time trials for the 2014 Daytona 500. But whereas Daytona is a restrictor-plate track and therefore more about a car's capabilities than the person behind the wheel, the Southern California speedway is regarded as a drivers' track due to its high speeds, aged asphalt and an aerodynamic package that sees cars frequently skate sideways.
"This means the world to me to get another pole," Dillon said. "The other was Daytona -- that was kind of one for the guys. I feel like I gave them more effort here. It makes our whole team feel really good going into Sunday. It feels like a career day for me to win a pole at somewhere other than Daytona."
Dillon is winless 89 career starts, but has shown promise and emerged as a contender this season. Through four races he has three top-10 finishes and an 11th.
"We've got fast cars this year and I'm proud of our guys, they just keep working hard," he said. "Hopefully, we can turn this into something."
Kevin Harvick, who in a photo finish over Carl Edwards last week at Phoenix International Raceway, will start alongside Dillon in Sunday's Auto Club 400. Harvick was atop the scoring sheet in the decisive third qualifying round until Dillon registered his lap with 15 seconds remaining.
Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards completed the top five qualifiers. Busch, a two-time ACS winner, starts sixth, with Trevor Bayne, rookie Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top 10.
Brad Keselowski, the defending race winner, established himself as the pole favorite by besting Busch's track-record in Round 1, but could only post the 15th-fastest speed in the second session. Also not transferring out of Round 2 were Martin Truex Jr. (17th), Jimmie Johnson (19th) and Matt Kenseth (20th).
Surprisingly, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. failed to advance out of the first round. Busch, who's won a pair of poles in four previous races this season, qualified 26th. Earnhardt starts 27th.
Auto Club 400 starting lineup
|17||Martin Truex, Jr.||Toyota||187.028|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||186.528|
|27||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||186.080|