Vickers Edges Out Three-Time Defending Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson For The Auto Club 500 Pole

Brian Vickers takes the Pole

Qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500 took place today under a beautiful baby blue sky in Fontana, Calif., just as the sun began its descent.  Brian Vickers (#83, Red Bull Toyota) showed up in a big way winning the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 39.250 seconds and an average speed of 183.439 mph.

“It always feels good to be on the pole,” said Vickers. “A win here in California would be great.”

Vickers made it clear that this week he plans on making up for lost points after a 39th-place finish in Daytona. This is his sixth pole in 174 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

Placing second in today’s qualifying was Jimmie Johnson (#48, Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet) with a time of 39.309 seconds and an average speed of 183.164 mph.  Johnson, who posted his second top-10 start of 2009 is going for his fourth victory at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson attributed Vickers’ winning margin to a dinner stop last night at a local In-N-Out restaurant. “All in all I had a good day,” Johnson said. “I missed turns 1 and 2 a little bit and that hurt me a lot. (Brian) Vickers and I went to In-N-Out last night and I got the double-double and Vickers only got a single. So that extra patty must have made that half-second difference.”
 
Rounding out the top three at today’s qualifying was Jamie McMurray (#26, Crown Royal Ford) who posted a time of 39.419 seconds with an average speed of 182.653 mph.  McMurray is going for his first win at the Auto Club Speedway this weekend.  He has come close, boasting three top-five finishes in 11 starts.

“After being in Daytona for so many days it was just nice to get on a track where you felt you got to make a difference,” said McMurray. “It wasn’t just totally up to your crew.”

Kyle Busch (#51, Miccosukee Resort/Toyota Tundra) has a busy weekend ahead of him. The 23-year-old Las Vegas native got off to a good start Friday, winning the Keystone Light Pole for Saturday’s San Bernardino County 200, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, with a lap of 41.341 seconds, 174.161 mph.

Busch is competing in all three NASCAR Series events this weekend, just like he did last weekend at Daytona. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” he told the media before qualifying. It was Busch’s third pole in 56 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. Two of Busch’s poles have come on two-mile tracks (Michigan 2005 and today). The other came at Charlotte in 2008. All three came with Billy Ballew as the team owner.

 Busch said Friday that Fontana was the site of one of his greatest racing memories. In 2005, he won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnny Benson (#1, Toyota) was second Friday and posted his first top-10 start of 2009 and his fourth in six races at Auto Club Speedway. He came in at 41.695, 172.683 mph. Benson said having Busch in Saturday’s race only makes the other drivers better.  “Having Kyle come in here from the Cup side make us step our program up,” he said.

Ricky Carmichael (#4, Monster Energy Chevrolet) was third and posted his second Top 10 start in two races this season. He was also the fastest qualifying rookie.

Gabi DiCarlo (#90, Great Clips Toyota) and Brandon Knupp (#47, FT-11 Multi Purpose Degreaser) both qualified for their first Camping World Truck Series event. DiCarlo came in 23rd out of 37 qualifiers at 42.815, 168.165 mph while Knupp was 35th at 45.144 and 159.490.

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