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Austin Dillon, No. 3 Team Earn Pole at Auto Club Speedway

Austin Dillon used a fast No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and a bit of strategy in the final round of qualifying to earn his first pole of the 2019 season at Auto Club Speedway.

Dillon and the Danny Stockman-led team recorded the fastest qualifying times in the first and second rounds of qualifying at the 2-mile D-shaped oval, advancing them to the final round. Given the new aerodynamic package implemented a few weeks ago by NASCAR, drivers waited until the last minute of the final round to make their runs in a pack, hoping to get the right draft off another car.

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However, when the field waited until the last minute none of the drivers in the top 12 were able to make it to the start-finish line before time expired and the red and black flag was waved by the NASCAR official. With no drivers making a recorded lap in the final round, NASCAR went back to the second round results, which put Dillon and the No. 3 Chevrolet on the pole for the first time this season.

“It was really pushing you in the corner in (Turns) 3 and 4,” said Dillon. “In the middle of the corner, I had a tight balance most of my day. I couldn’t run wide open. I talked to Stockman through it, kind of telling him where that point was.

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“I thought the wind changed going into practice (earlier in the day). I felt like it was coming from Turn 2 to 4. When I got out of the car after practice, it was really shooting right into the middle of 3 and 4. So I went and told him the reason we were tight had to be the wind.

“We freed up around that, and I changed a little bit of my driving style to accommodate the car … and we ended up on top,” said Dillon.

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Daniel Hemric posted the 11th-fastest time in the opening round of qualifying and was 17th in the second round, which is where he will start Sunday’s race in the No. 8 Liberty National Life Insurance Chevrolet.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have two practice sessions on Saturday before Sunday’s race, which can be seen at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.