Daytona 500 champion Austin Cindric wins pole at Fontana

Daytona 500 Champion Austin Cindric will be in excellent position Sunday to start the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series with back-to-back wins.

Cindric posted the fastest average lap speed (174.647 mph) on the final lap of Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

“There is so much to learn and so much happening,” said Cindric. “Overall it was pretty awesome and pretty dramatic. I honestly didn’t think my lap would stand up.

“It was just a great couple of days and now a great start to this weekend.”

Three of the 10 riders on the final lap struggled and failed to show speeds, including Chase Elliott who was the last rider attempting to qualify.

The pole is the first for Cindric in his short cup career. He bested Bubba Wallace to take his first consecutive win at last Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Erik Jones was second fastest (174.157 mph) and Kyle Busch was third (173.758 mph). Denny Hamlin was fourth and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top five.

“I definitely left a little bit out there. I think we definitely had a chance for pole,” said Jones. “We were strong straight away this season – at the (LA) Coliseum, at Daytona and now here. The car is angular and challenging to drive.”

Rounding out Sunday’s top 10 starters are Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Elliott, Brad Keselowski and William Byron.

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Keselowski spun at Turn 2 during his qualifying lap on Lap 2 but didn’t hit the wall.

Logano marked the wall during his qualifying run but didn’t appear to do much damage to his No. 22 Ford.

Byron spun out of Turn 4 during his qualifying lap but only suffered a flat tire while Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott also spun after coming off the apron.

Round 1 / Group B

Elliott had the fastest average lap speed in Group B qualifying at 174.855 mph.

Blaney (174.457 mph), Cindric (174.292 mph), Jones (174.267 mph) and Byron (173.586 mph) joined Elliott in the top five and advanced on Lap 2.

Aric Almirola spun at Turn 4 on his qualifying lap but didn’t hit the wall but didn’t set a qualifying lap.

Group A

Logano led Group A qualifying with an average lap speed of 174.090 mph.

Keselowski (173.900 mph), Hemric (173.892 mph), Hamlin (173.218 mph) and Kyle Busch (172.961 mph) joined Logano in the top five and advanced on Lap 2.

Ross Chastain did not qualify as his team continued to prepare his replacement car after an accident in practice on Saturday. Kevin Harvick also failed to qualify as his team was still repairing his car after his crash in practice.

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