NASCAR’s new and improved group qualifying kicked off Friday (March 29) at Texas Motor Speedway. Despite the new rules, the waiting game was still key. Jimmie Johnson was able to win all three rounds to claim the pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Johnson’s lap in the final round was the fastest overall at 188.890 mph.
Drama ensued before a car even took time as Erik Jones‘ Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota failed pre-qualifying inspection twice. Jones’ car chief, Jason Overstreet, has been ejected for the rest of the weekend.
Round No. 1
In Round No, 1, the drama continued as Alex Bowman‘s No. 88 got loose in Turn 2 and smacked the wall bringing out the red flag with just under four minutes left in the round. He will go to backup car for Sunday.
Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate and seven-time Texas winner Johnson led the field in the first round with a lap at 188.627 mph. Jones and Austin Dillon followed while Clint Bowyer failed to make the top 24 and will start 25th. Bowyer was visibly upset after it appeared Ryan Newman impeded Bowyer’s progress while trying to exit pit road. Despite lobbying from both Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, NASCAR declined to penalize Newman, who ended up eighth fastest in the round.
Round No. 2
The second round started at a standstill as it took seven minutes for somebody to take a time. Daniel Suarez roared down pit road for a single-car run. With one minute remaining the other 23 cars finally rolled off pit road and Johnson once again was fastest at 187.957 mph.
Round No. 3
The final round started quickly as Suarez once again tricked the field and made a single-car run to start things off. With 90 seconds to go, the rest of the field swept into action. With only a few seconds left on the clock, Johnson clinched the pole position. Teammate William Byron will start alongside on the front row.
Chase Elliott made it a Hendrick 1-2-3 in third, while Suarez will start fourth. Austin Dillon rounds out the top five. Denny Hamlin will start sixth, then Hemric and Joey Logano. Ty Dillon and Wallace will start ninth and 10th, respectively.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will have to be up bright and early on Saturday for practice. Practice No. 2 is scheduled for 8 a.m. Central time (9 a.m. Eastern). The session will air live on FOX Sports 1.