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.
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.
“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.
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.
— RCR Cup Teams (@RCRCup) March 15, 2019
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.