Clint Bowyer edged Jimmie Johnson by .007 seconds to claim the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox).
It is Bowyer’s fourth career pole and comes after he won the pole at at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last fall.
Johnson, who was the last driver to qualify, will start second in his final Cup Series start at his home track.
The top five is completed by Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.
The gap between Bowyer’s last two poles is much smaller than his previous wait between poles (431 starts).
“I was actually freaking out that the sun kept coming out,” Bowyer told FS1 after qualifying. “You know the track’s building temperature, everybody, you can see in the SMT data, kept getting looser and looser down in (Turns) 1 and 2 and I was no exception. I knew coming to the green was important, you try to stay up high, get up through the gear box as good as you can. But that’s what it was, down there in (Turns) 1 and 2 she just kind of slid and got loose … and it stuck right there and away it went. Everybody else had to chase it up the track and lost speed and momentum. (When Johnson made his run) I’m thinking, ‘man, if it comes down and I get beat by the last car on the race track I’m going to freak out.'”
Busch’s car failed pre-qualifying inspection twice and had his car chief ejected from the event.
Martin Truex Jr. failed inspection three times. His car chief was ejected and he was not allowed to make a qualifying attempt. Truex will start from the rear Sunday.