Juan Pablo Montoya claimed his sixth Sprint Cup Series pole position in qualifying for Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
The Colombian had run seventh fastest in a rain-delayed practice, which gave him one of the late slots to complete his qualifying run. On his first and only lap he knocked off Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano from provisional pole with a lap time of 38.992sec – the only driver breaking the 39-second bracket – at an average speed of 184.652mph. Logano's teammate Denny Hamlin came closest to beating Montoya's benchmark, ending up .0081s from the Earnhardt Ganassi driver while joining him on the front row of the grid.
Montoya had been close to pole previously at Fontana but sideways moments at turn four had meant second and fourth on his most recent outings at the two-mile oval.
"I still got it wrong this time," said Montoya about the final turn. "I didn't screw it as much because I usually get on the gas there too early and end up washing up in the wall. So I got in and as soon as I felt the rear starting to turn around I lifted. Had too wait a little longer and could've been a little bit faster but nailed [turns] One and Two pretty good."
"Qualifying and race setups here are two completely different things, so tomorrow there's going to be a lot of work in practice. We've done plenty of work on the cars in order to improve them and it seems like our race pace is now usually better than in qualifying. We're still missing a little bit to be able to win a race on an oval, but I think we're getting closer to that."
Logano ended up third beside Front Row Motorsports' Regan Smith, whose ECR-powered Chevy held on to provisional pole for most of the session. Tony Stewart was fifth, ahead of the fastest Ford of Roush Fenway's David Ragan.
Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton was seventh beating Kyle Busch, who managed to qualify in the top 10 on his first flying lap of the day on his back up car after crashing his primary one early in practice.
Stewart Haas's Ryan Newman and Hendrick Motorsports' Mark Martin completed row five of the grid for Sunday's race, making it six Chevy's inside the top 10.
Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann, who had been fastest in practice earlier in the day, finished only 14th, two places ahead of local hero and reigning champion Jimmie Johnson while points' leader Kurt Busch was only 24th fastest in his Penske Dodge.
Casey Mears was the fastest of those having to qualify on speed with 25th and there were no drivers left out of the grid this time as only 43 cars entered this weekend's event.