Denny Hamlin watched his teammates Joey Logano and Kyle Busch each take the provisional pole ahead of him, studied the line they took around the track, and opted to go his own way. Watching his teammates and most of the field take the high line, he took the low line after thinking that the wind may cause him some speed loss. Opting for the bottom line proved to be the best decision he could have made getting him around the 2 mile track in just 38.626 seconds (186.403 mph) to claim his second Coors Light pole award at Fontana and the 10th of his career.
“Everyone had a different way of doing it,” Hamlin said. “It seemed like there were some guys who were five lanes up and some who just worked their way down. We were one of the few cars that ran all the way on the bottom.”
“That’s where we practiced, and I didn’t want to change that. I’d done all my qualifying runs early in the day and practiced race runs on the bottom. Really, I think I would have been less efficient running the top, even though it might have been faster. My safest route was to take the bottom, and I just took what it gave us.”
Kyle Busch and Mark Martin tied for the next position with a speed of 185.534 mph, with Kyle Busch getting the advantage because of his higher points finish from the 2011 season.
“I’ve never run 1 and 2 up in the third lane like that,” Busch said. “I think Joey kind of started the trend there, and a lot of people picked up it and started running some really good times. And lo, and behold, one of the only guys that runs the bottom — Denny — beats you.”
Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne also tied for 4th spot (185.510 mph) with Biffle getting the same advantage for points position from the 2011 season.
Kevin harvick comes into Fontana as the defending champion at this track. Sitting second in points and having finished 11th or better in the first 4 races, Harvick sees this as a chance to show that his team is also still able to contend for a Championship this year.
Crew Chief Shane Wilson plans to use this weekend to work out the kinks.
“We just have to work out some kinks,” crew chief Shane Wilson said. “You’re trying to perform at the highest level, so you’re always going to nitpick yourself and try to do it better than the 99 [car of Carl Edwards] or the 14 [car of Tony Stewart]. You’re always driving to be better. That never stops.”
“Our deal is, we’re not new together,” Wilson said. “We’ve raced together in the past, and we’re friends, and we work for the same company. It’s not like we’re coming in from a different company. You had meetings and know what the other people are thinking. I feel like that’s one of the reasons they did it, because there wasn’t going to be a long period like that. We’re more working on our notebook with Kevin … and getting used to a few little things with his car here. All in all, that’s already right where it needs to be.”
“That was our goal coming into the year, to get our car speed up,” Wilson said. “Calling the races and me and him working together is gong to come pretty quick, because me and him have worked together in the past. Him and Gil obviously had a good thing going, but we’ve done what we wanted to do so far as far as getting our cars faster, where we’re competitive and can race with the guys we’re going to need to at the end of the year. It’s a long season, but we’re still trying to accomplish that goal of getting our cars faster, and we feel like we’re hitting on it so far. We’ve got to keep it up.”
“I think all the guys on the team would say we aren’t really crisp, I guess you would say, as far as the first four weeks,” Harvick said. “I haven’t done everything right from the driver’s seat. We’ve made some mistakes in all areas, I would say. Once we feel like we’re in a rhythm, and have all the bugs and kinks worked out of everything, I think it will be even better. The good thing about it is the speed has been in the car at every race track we’ve been to, and that’s really what we were looking for. Speed in the race cars. We can fix and tweak the small things outside of that. It’s been pretty comfortable so far, and hopefully we can keep it rolling and make it better every week.”
Jimmie Johnson breathed a huge sigh of relief this week when a NASCAR appointed arbitrator overturned some of the penalties levied after Crew Chief Chad Knaus was caught bringing illegal equipment to the track. The C-Posts in question were removed from the car before the car was set to the templates and that has been the main reason for the appeal, and the reason which allowed for the overturning of the driver and owner points.
“I don’t feel vindicated, because I feel like everything should have been overturned,” Johnson said Friday. “I’m pleased that things went away, but I don’t feel vindicated.”
NASCAR however, feels that their process has still been vindicated with the fines issues to Knaus still remaining.
“When we chose John Middlebrook as our Chief Appellate Officer, we chose him based on our experiences with him for several years, and his pragmatic approach to business, and his relationships with race teams and with NASCAR,” Helton said. “The reasons that we chose the current Chief Appellate Officer haven’t changed. Our opinion and our belief in our Chief Appellate Officer haven’t changed.”
“I think the decision made this week upholds what’s right and wrong when it comes to the inspection process and the things of the car,” Helton said, “because there were elements of the penalty that were upheld relative to parts of the car that did not conform to the rules.”
“The elements of the penalty that were upheld indicate that the inspection process, or the inspectors, did their job correctly,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “I think the debate over the decision this week was more about the decision after that point and how we reacted to it, and that’s as much a bureaucratic decision as it is a competition decision. So we believe very strongly in our inspection process, and are very proud of it, so the inspection process is status quo as we go forward.”