AJ Allmendinger has won the pole for Saturday evening’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway.
Allmendinger, the next-to-last driver to qualify, posted a lap of 179.829 miles per hour in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.
Saturday’s race will be his first NASCAR national series race at Auto Club since the 2018 Cup Series race there.
“I was hoping they were gonna tell me it was pretty good, because I didn’t really have much left in it,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports about his lap. “I was like, ‘Oh, please, let me cross the line and then tell me at least it’s a decent lap.’
“(The car) is pretty dialed in. We were a little bit tight in practice. (Crew chief) Bruce (Schlicker) did a great job making the adjustments going into qualifying. These qualifying (sessions) make me a little nervous again, because I actually haven’t done a lot of them in the Xfinity Series at tracks like this, so, good start to the day. We’ve got a long race ahead of us. But at least we get to lead the field.”
Cup regular Cole Custer will start on the outside front row. His lap of 179.793 mph in the No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Ford was on provisional pole for much of the session before Allmendinger took it away.
Austin Hill (177.061 mph), last week’s winner at Daytona, qualified on the outside of Row 4. He’ll share that row with Landon Cassill (177.927 mph).
Three drivers failed to qualify into the 38-car field: Joe Graf Jr., Will Rodgers and Brennan Poole. However, NASCAR later confirmed that Graf would replace Timmy Hill in the No. 38 RSS Racing Ford for the race.
Xfinity practice and qualifying took place in a joint session under a new format announced by NASCAR last November.
For Auto Club, a 20-minute practice (all entries) preceded single-car, single-lap qualifying (all entries). Justin Allgaier was fastest in that practice, but could only qualify 20th (175.165 mph).
Green flag for the Production Alliance Group 300 is scheduled for 5:17 p.m. ET. Coverage is on FS1.