Kyle Larson continued his impressive start to the 2017 season in qualifying on Friday, picking up his second career pole. The No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet posted a time of 38.493 seconds (187.047 mph) in the final round. Larson put up his fast lap late in the session by moving up to the high line.
Denny Hamlin was second quick, 0.o14 seconds off of Larson’s time. Brad Keselowski, who is without crew chief Paul Wolfe for the next three weeks, starts third. Martin Truex Jr. and last week’s winner, Ryan Newman rounded out the top 5.
Joey Logano did not make a qualifying attempt after his car took too long to clear the NASCAR inspection line.
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) March 24, 2017
Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson did not participate in the qualifying session but for a different reason. Johnson spun and damaged his car during the opening round of practice on Friday afternoon. However, the Hendrick Motorsports crew chose to focus on setting up the backup car.
Crew chief Chad Knaus explained the decision.
“Unfortunately we crashed the Lowe’s Chevrolet in practice today.” Knaus said. “I just felt it was wiser to get the car prepared correctly rather than qualify poorly. I wasn’t comfortable putting Jimmie in a position where he would have to hustle a car that he hasn’t turned a lap in yet.
“We are all the way out here on the west coast and we brought two race cars. If we were to crash this car, we would have to pull a car from a teammate and it would be a very difficult obstacle to overcome.”
Johnson will start 37th on Sunday.
The Auto Club 400 goes green on Sunday at 3:30 pm ET on Fox.
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