FONTANA, Calif – NASCAR is going to have to eventually do something about their cars missing out of qualifying. While it’s not their fault for what’s happening, it’s something that’s going to have to be rectified.
With technical inspection going to new depths over the last few years, that mixed with teams pushing the limits on setups, have seen several races where cars didn’t even make a qualifying attempt. Counter that with only 37 cars showing up on most race weekends now, and it’s a crime to charge fans the price of admission to watch only a handful of cars even make a qualifying attempt.
13 cars didn’t even make a trip around the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway on Friday afternoon. The reason? They couldn’t pass inspection. That’s why this is not NASCAR’s fault. But, when only 24 cars take time to set the field of 37 for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it’s a sign that things need to change.
In the second round, only 20 of the 24 cars took time.
In qualifying itself, Martin Truex Jr. shocked the field in earning his second pole of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and 17th of his career. Truex, turned a top lap of 186.567 mph in his No. 78 Toyota in the third and final round.
The reason it was so shocking was that Kevin Harvick appeared to be the easy favorite to earn the top starting spot. He was leaps and bounds quicker in practice earlier today, and backed that up with being fastest in both rounds of qualifying before. Instead, he qualified his No. 4 Ford 10th (184.436 mph). The good omen is that he started 10th last week in Phoenix and still won his third straight race.
Kyle Busch who has finished second the last two weeks to Harvick will start there on Sunday in his No. 18 Toyota. Busch, set a lap of 186.437 mph in the third round to earn a front row starting spot.
Defending Fontana race winner Kyle Larson will start third (186.128 mph) in his No. 42 Chevrolet. Erik Jones (186.047 mph) and Austin Dillon (185.711 mph) rounded out the top five.
Some big names like Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne never made a qualifying attempt. They’ll start 25th rough 34th respectively.
Auto Club 400 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch
Row 2: Kyle Larson, Erik Jones
Row 3: Austin Dillon, Joey Logano
Row 4: Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney
Row 5: Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick
Row 6: Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher
Row 7: Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard
Row 8: Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 9: Ty Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto
Row 10: Darrell Wallace Jr. R, Gray Gaulding
Row 11: David Ragan, Michael McDowell
Row 12: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Reed Sorenson
Row 13: Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer
Row 14: Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman
Row 15: William Byron, Daniel Suarez
Row 16: Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger
Row 17: Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne
Row 18: Timmy Hill, Ross Chastain R
Row 19: Cole Whitt