Denny Hamlin won the pole for the second straight year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
FONTANA, Calif. — Denny Hamlin won the pole for the second straight year at Auto Club Speedway on Friday, turning a lap of 187.451 mph in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., finished second at 187.217 and Brad Keselowski was third in the qualifying session, but they will start at the back of the field in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 because they changed their Ford engines before qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
“That was a spectacular lap, considering everything we did today,” Biffle said. “The guys worked really hard to get the engine changed. I got out with three minutes to go to make a lap, and we made adjustments from that lap and were able to put down a pretty fast lap. … We’re going to get a good pit stall for the race, and we’ll have to start at the back, so that’s unfortunate, but I’m proud of the car that we’re going to have for the race.”
Hamlin earned his first pole of the season and the 13th of his career. He won three last year, and has won the pole three times in Fontana.
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After his strong performance last year, Hamlin was confident his new Gen-6 race car would produce the same old results.
“These cars have different bodies on them, (but) they’re the same race cars we’ve been racing for a really long time, so everything pretty much correlated,” he said. “I love this racetrack. A lot of the reason is because it’s bumpy and it’s worn out. … You poll the drivers, this is one of the favorite racetracks we go to.”
Series leader Keselowski had his third top-10 time in five races this season, though he won’t get to enjoy it.
“I’m a little nervous about the engine issues the 16 and 2 cars both had in practice,” said Keselowski, referring to Biffle’s car and his own.
Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw qualified in 16th. He won last weekend’s Food City 500 in Bristol, Tenn.
Danica Patrick, who started last month’s Daytona 500 from the pole and finished eighth, was 40th in qualifying.