Date: March 20, 2015
Event: Auto Club 400 Qualifying (Round 5 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California (2-mile oval)
Pole Winner: Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (38.889 seconds at 185.142 mph)
SHR Lineup: Kurt Busch (1st, 38.889 seconds at 185.142 mph)
Kevin Harvick (2nd, 38.909 seconds at 185.047 mph)
Tony Stewart (20th, 39.464 seconds at 182.445 mph)
Danica Patrick (22nd, 39.530 seconds at 182.140 mph)
Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) drivers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick qualified 1-2 for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. It marked the second time SHR drivers swept the front row for a Sprint Cup race. The last time SHR drivers qualified 1-2 was July 15, 2011 when Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart took the front row at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, turned a lap of 38.889 seconds at 185.142 mph on the 2-mile oval in the final round of knockout qualifying. It was his 17th career Sprint Cup pole, his first of the season and his series-best fourth at Fontana. It was also the 24th Sprint Cup pole for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s second this season. Harvick won the pole last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
“This is huge for Gene Haas,” said Busch, referring to Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, the co-owner of SHR. “Thank you Gene for believing in me. This is my job. Come to the track, drive the car and put it up on the pole and go for wins. That is what Gene has told me to do from the get go and I’m glad I have this chance to go back out there and live up to why he hired me. It feels good. The guys were just spot on all day with all the adjustments. The car started off so fast and it’s all due to the work back at the shop.”
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, stopped the clock in 38.909 seconds at 185.047 mph. Harvick, who has seven straight top-two finishes coming into Fontana, will make his third front-row start of the season in the Auto Club 400
“I’m just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team,” said Harvick, who won at Fontana in 2011. “I want to congratulate Kurt and everybody on the No. 41 and everybody at SHR, Hendrick engines and chassis for everything they do for all these cars. I got down into turn three and I was committed to the bottom, but there were three cars on the apron that were cooling off. I wanted to run the apron because I ran it in the second round and thought I knew what I needed to do in the third round. I got through (turns) one and two fairly well, got to the green really well, and then I had to abort down there. All-in-all, still a good effort.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 20th with a time of 39.464 seconds at 182.445 mph.
“The Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevy was just really tight through the center and on exit,” said Stewart, who is a two-time Fontana winner (2010 and 2012). “We couldn’t get back to the gas quick enough in qualifying trim. Our guys will keep working on it. We have some practice time tomorrow and we’ll be ready for Sunday.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 22nd with a time of 39.530 seconds at 182.140 mph.
“The Aspen Dental Chevrolet was way too tight in the first round, but we managed to advance,” said Patrick, who will make her third Sprint Cup start at Fontana on Sunday. “The car was a bit better in the second round, so I went for it in (turns) three and four on my second run because I knew we needed a big run to make it to the final round. It’s a bummer to end up 22nd after running so strong in practice. I feel like the car has speed, so at least we have two practices tomorrow to work on the balance.”
Qualifying consisted of three rounds. The first was 15 minutes, with every driver on the track vying to set the fastest lap. The 24 fastest drivers from the first round advanced to the second, 10-minute round. The fastest 12 drivers from that session advanced to the final, five-minute round of qualifying where they battled for the pole. Positions 1-12 were set by speeds in the final round. Positions 13-24 were set by speeds in the second round. The remaining 43-car field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance past the first round.
The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.
Forty-five drivers attempted to qualify for the 43-car field. Reed Sorenson and Travis Kvapil did not make the race.