Cup Series qualifying: Austin Cindric wins pole at Auto Club
Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric continued his momentum by claiming the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway.
Cindric (174.647 mph), driving the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, turned the fastest lap among 10 drivers in the final round of qualifying on the two-mile oval in Fontana, California.
Those 10 drivers advanced from qualifying sessions within their respective groups, Group A and Group B.
Three drivers spun on their final round attempts, including the last driver to take one, Chase Elliott.
Elliott’s loop around in Turn 4 was one of multiple incidents during Saturday’s practice/qualifying event. In all, 10 of the 36 cars entered for Sunday either spun or crashed.
Not only are Cup drivers and teams re-learning Auto Club after a two-year absence, but they’re also continuing to come to grips with the new Next Gen car. This weekend marks its first appearance on an intermediate-size track.
“It’s certainly been crazy and I feel like I anticipated it,” Cindric told Fox Sports before winning the pole. “It’s such a challenging race track and, obviously, a lot of newness for everybody.”
Qualifying alongside Cindric on the front row was Petty GMS Motorsports’ Erik Jones, who posted a final round lap of 174.157 mph in his No. 43 Chevrolet.
Prior to qualifying were two, 15-minute practice sessions for each group.
Four notable incidents took place during those sessions, which had windy conditions.
The biggest occurred in the Group A session. Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain went straight into the Turn 4 wall hard, while RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher spun out in the middle of Turns 3 and 4.
Chastain was checked and released from the infield care center. He did not speak with Fox Sports afterwards. The broadcast passed along word from his public relations representative that he had the wind knocked out of him in the crash and that he wanted to refocus on Sunday’s race.
As for Buescher, he did not hit anything in his own incident and later returned to practice.
Also having trouble in Group A were Kevin Harvick and Christopher Bell.
Harvick lost control of his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and backed it into the Turn 4 wall in the opening minutes. He was checked and released from the infield care center.
Bell spun in Turn 4 at the end of the Group A session, but did not hit anything.
In Group B practice, Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota briefly went sideways in Turn 1 before tagging the wall and spinning down the track. The car sustained damage to the right-rear corner and the rear diffuser.
As Harvick, Chastain and Wallace all went to the garage after their incidents in practice, they were not allowed to make a qualifying attempt.
Green flag for the Wise Power 400 is scheduled for Sunday at 3:47 p.m. ET. Coverage is on FOX.