FONTANA, Calif. — Matt Kenseth won the pole for the Auto Club 400, edging Brad Keselowski in a knockout qualifying session Friday.
Kenseth, a three-time Fontana winner, won his first pole of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing by turning a lap at 187.315 mph, beating Keselowski's 187.105.
"We unloaded and had some really good speed," Kenseth said.
Jimmie Johnson was third (186.935), followed by Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Tony Stewart was tenth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 15th and Danica Patrick 27th.
In NASCAR's new knockout qualifying, the fourth this season, the 43-car field was trimmed to 24 for the 10-minute second round, followed by a five-minute final round for the top 12 cars.
JJ STANDS BY CREW: Johnson doesn't believe his Hendrick Motorsports team was to blame for his tire coming apart at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. Johnson was running second when the tread of his right front tire fell off. Goodyear officials said the crew didn't change right-side tires during their first pit stop, and wear caused the tire to fail. "From a team standpoint, we're still very adamant that the wear on the tire was not the issue," Johnson said.