Race #5 in the 2011 Sprint cup season in Fontana California at Auto Club Speedway. Juan Montoya who has had a rough start to the season this year when it comes to qualifying,Ã‚Â has found his way to the front of the field in Sunny California.Ã‚Â Maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was the cool mountain air, or maybe it was Montoya’s will to succeed in Sprint cup, but whatever his motivation it seems to be working.Ã‚Â Montoyas average starting position so far this year has been a disappointing 23.5 so winning the Coors Light Pole Award for this Sunday’s race was a marked improvement for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race at the 2-mile track.
With a lap time of 38.992 seconds (184.653 mph) Montoya was the only driver to turn a sub 39 second lap in time trials.Ã‚Â Denny Hamlin will be sitting beside him on the front row with his qualifying speed of 184.270 mph.
This is Montoya’s 6th pole in his 150 starts at the Sprint Cup level and it also marks the third season in a row where he has netted at least one pole position.Ã‚Â Montoya however is unfazed by his lackluster starting positions so far this year.Ã‚Â Sitting 8th in points overall and only 24 points behind the leader he is certainly showing that he can move to the front and get a decent points run each week.
“As long as we have the race pace that we’ve had this year, I don’t mind qualifying in the back,” said Montoya, who is eighth in the Cup standings. “If you have a good car, you can always come back. But this will make pit selection better. There’s a lot of things that are better by qualifying good.
“I think you can look after the car more during the race, and I think that always helps.”
Denny Hamlin was motivated to get a better starting position than last weeks effort at Bristol.Ã‚Â His 25th place start there put him in trouble early after he was caught up in an early, multicar wreck that left him struggling to maintain his 33rd place finish.
“I’ve really never worked so hard to work on just one lap before as much as I have this week,” Hamlin said. “I’m trying to get better. Last week we had issues at Bristol, and that was because we qualified bad. We can’t put ourselves in the middle of the pack every weekend. We’re trying to slowly work to get better at qualifying, and I felt like I’m taking steps to do that.”
The win to starting position statistics are rather interesting at Auto Club Speedway.Ã‚Â Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to have won from the pole here in a Sprint Cup Race (2008) while 11 of the 21 events have been won by a driver who started in the top 10 on the grid.
Points leader Kurt Busch will be starting deep in the field in 23rd, and Carl Edwards will be starting in 18th.Ã‚Â Southern California has been inundated with heavy rains over the past week, including showers on Friday morning that finally began to break up as afternoon approached.Ã‚Â Busch seemed to ba having trouble working out the handling of the car and thought that the lack of practice time due to the weather may have contributed to that effort.
“We’re still trying to figure out the balance,” Busch said. “We’re loose one run, tight the next. We’re just struggling with the front-end ride quality. There wasn’t a lot of practice time today, so [Saturday’s] sessions will be a key in trying to get this car dialed in for the race.”