NASCAR at California 2020 Qualifying Results: Clint Bowyer Takes Pole

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2020

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 28:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Rush\HAAS CNC, practices for the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 28, 2020 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Clint Bowyer barely beat out Jimmie Johnson for the fourth NASCAR Cup Series pole of his career during qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, on Saturday.

Bowyer and Johnson will comprise the front row for Sunday's Auto Club 400. Here is a look at the entire starting order, courtesy of NASCAR.com (time in seconds):

1. Clint Bowyer: 40.086
2. Jimmie Johnson: 40.093
3. Alex Bowman: 40.143
4. Kurt Busch: 40.233
5. Kevin Harvick: 40.250
6. Aric Almirola: 40.280
7. Joey Logano: 40.284
8. Michael McDowell: 40.304
9. Kyle Larson: 40.341
10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 40.351
11. Chris Buescher: 40.367
12. Matt DiBenedetto: 40.428
13. Chase Elliott: 40.485
14. Bubba Wallace: 40.487
15. Brad Keselowski: 40.491
16. Ryan Blaney: 40.503
17. Kyle Busch: 40.516
18. Cole Custer: 40.519
19. Tyler Reddick: 40.583
20. Ryan Preece: 40.587
21. William Byron: 40.610
22. Christopher Bell: 40.698
23. John Hunter Nemechek: 40.699
24. Ty Dillon: 40.738
25. Austin Dillon: 40.750
26. Corey LaJoie: 40.761
27. Ross Chastain: 40.783
28. Denny Hamlin: 40.790
29. Erik Jones: 40.955
30. JJ Yeley: 41.484
31. Daniel Suarez: 41.511
32. Brennan Poole: 41.819
33. Reed Sorenson: 41.975
34. Joey Gase: 42.375
35. Quin Houff: 42.657
36. Garrett Smithley: 42.842
37. Timmy Hill: 43.729
38. Martin Truex Jr.: 0.000

Johnson had the final qualifying run of the day, and as seen in the following video, he came agonizingly close to knocking off Bowyer:

Winning the pole would have been a huge deal for Johnson since he is in the midst of his final season and is a California native running his final race at Auto Club.

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After Bowyer watched Johnson narrowly miss out on surpassing him for the pole, he said the following:

Aside from the battle for the pole, the biggest news during Saturday's qualifying session was the fact that Martin Truex Jr. was not allowed to qualify after failing pre-qualifying inspection three times.

As a result, Truex will have to start Sunday's race from the back of the field in 38th.

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano are the two race winners so far this season, but they had very different runs Saturday. Hamlin struggled and will start from the 28th position, while Logano had one of the faster cars and will start seventh.

Ryan Blaney, who is the points leader, will start 16th, and Kevin Harvick—who is third in points—will start fifth and figures to be among the top contenders to win.

Of all the drivers in Sunday's race, Johnson has had the most success. He leads active drivers with six career wins at Auto Club, and his average finish of 7.6 at the track is tops as well.

Given his dominance at the track, his strong qualifying run and the fact that Sunday marks his final race at Auto Club Speedway, Johnson will be the sentimental favorite entering the Auto Club 400.