Fontana, CA – Denny Hamlin won the pole for Sunday's Auto Club 400, while his teammate, Kyle Busch, claimed the second starting position to give Joe Gibbs Racing the front row at Auto Club Speedway.
Hamlin posted a lap at 186.403 mph during Friday's qualifying session at the two-mile Southern California racetrack for his 10th career Sprint Cup Series pole but his first since October 2010 at Martinsville (44 races ago).
He also became the fifth different pole sitter in as many Sprint Cup races this season. The other pole winners so far this year include: Carl Edwards (Daytona), Mark Martin (Phoenix), Kasey Kahne (Las Vegas) and Greg Biffle (Bristol).
Hamlin won at Phoenix earlier this month but has finished 20th in the past two races (Las Vegas and Bristol). He is presently fifth in the point standings.
"We're four weeks in, and we've had two good weeks and two bad weeks," Hamlin said. "There's light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like this weekend we've got a little bit more speed than we had in Vegas. We're getting better, and we've got some good stuff coming with our team. We're obviously heading in the right direction."
Hamlin's speed was nearly one mile-per-hour quicker than Busch's qualifying lap at 185.534 mph.
"It didn't start off so great in practice, but [crew chief] Dave [Rogers] and the guys did an immaculate job putting the thing together and making a bunch of changes through practice and into qualifying trim in order to get ourselves a better-handling car," Busch said.
Martin, who returned to the track after not competing last week at Bristol, qualified third to give Toyota a 1-2-3 finish in qualifying. Martin is running a partial schedule in the No. 55 car for Michael Waltrip Racing this season.
Biffle, the current points leader, and Kahne rounded out the top-five.
Only 0.005 seconds separated second-place Busch from fifth-place Kahne.
Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, the defending race winner, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, who holds the track record with five victories, qualified sixth through 10th, respectively. Harvick and Johnson are both natives of Southern California.
Biffle currently holds a nine-point advantage over Harvick, while Biffle's teammate and Daytona 500 winner, Matt Kenseth, is 12 markers behind. Kenseth will start 15th.
Robby Gordon, Joe Nemechek and Timmy Hill failed to qualify.
The 400-mile race at California is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. (ET).