After claiming his first-career NASCAR Cup Series win in the Daytona 500, rookie Austin Cindric posted a 41.126-second/174.647 mph lap at Auto Club Speedway in the second of two rounds of qualifying Saturday to win the pole for Sunday’s Wise Power 400. It was Cindric’s first Cup Series pole in nine races.
“I would say the last time I approached a qualifying session having to talk myself into my own lap as much as I had to today was back when I raced USF 200 in 2013 or 2014 and went to IRP the night before the 500,” Cindric said. “I know that is probably gibberish to the entire NASCAR fan base but that is what today reminded me of. There is so much learning and so much going on and it is all happening really fast. As a driver, you can’t be distracted by the crashes or mistakes or the short amount of time. I had all the data I needed today to learn what I needed to do and go apply it. It is fun to be able to go do that. Like Erik [Jones] was saying, it is easy for me to be happy about it but there are a lot of guys that had pretty rough days and put some teams in some rough spots for the west coast swing. It was pretty awesome. Pretty dramatic. I thought my lap wasn’t going to stand. I thought my one and two was money but my three and four were a bit conservative mostly because my one and two was money. I didn’t talk myself into going deep like I wanted to in three. Anyway, just an awesome couple of days and an awesome way to start things out but I don’t think it guarantees anything for the race but is certainly a lot of fun to be able to go through that.”
Erik Jones qualified second to start next to Cindric on the front row. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top-five of the 10-car second round of qualifying.
“I definitely left a bit out there. I thought we probably could have had a shot there for the pole, but missed [turns] one and two a bit. But nonetheless, I’m proud of number one, Petty GMS Motorsports; and number two, Dave [Elenz, crew chief] coming into a new role this year and being really strong right off the bat. We were strong at the Clash, Daytona and here. Obviously, there’s a long way to go tomorrow, but I’m happy with how we’ve started with the No. 43 FOCUSFactor Chevrolet.”
Several cars wrecked or at least spun on Saturday. Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace all spun in the practice session that preceded qualifying. Of that group, Buescher was the only one to make a qualifying attempt. Meanwhile, Kurt Busch was prohibbitted from making a qualifying lap after three failed inspections.
Aric Almirola spun in the first round of qualifying, while four of the 10 drivers who advanced to round two of qualifying spun in the final round, including Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and William Byron.
“The cars are hard to drive, and they’re supposed to be that way,” Keselowski said.
Elliott’s spin came after posting the fastest lap in the opening round.
Ryan Blaney qualified sixth, Logano seventh, Elliott eighth, Keselowski ninth, and Byron rounded out the top-10.
WISE POWER 400 STARTING LINEUP