Denny Hamlin claimed his first pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Fontana.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who has had an up and down start to his year, winning at Phoenix but then finishing 20th in the last two races, got the 10th pole of his career after setting a fastest lap of 38.626 seconds at an average speed of 186.403 mph around the two-mile oval, bumping his team-mate Kyle Busch from the top spot.
"This is a horsepower and handling racetrack and we've improved in those areas and it seems like we've got better," said Hamlin. "TRD [Toyota Racing Development], can't thank them enough, this is kind of a home race for them and everyone out here from Costa Mesa. Glad to give them the pole and obviously a front row for both of us."
Toyota Camrys dominated the session. Michael Waltrip Racing's Mark Martin, returning this week after sitting out Bristol, set the third fastest lap after running second best in practice earlier in the day.
The veteran's time was exactly the same as that set by Busch, while behind them, Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle and Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne also set identical times rounding out the top five. In both cases the ties were broken by the car's position in the 2011 car owners' standings.
All JGR three drivers held pole at some point during the session, Joey Logano being bumped down to eighth in the end behind Stewart-Haas' Ryan Newman and Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick, having been at the top of the timesheets for a while.
Reigning champion Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas) had a sideways moment but still ran the ninth fastest lap, finishing the session ahead of five-time champion and five-time winner of his home race at Fontana, Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick).
MWR's Clint Bowyer had been fastest earlier in practice but only set the 11th fastest lap in qualifying after going out last in the order.
David Stremme was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 20th, while local Robby Gordon, Joe Nemechek and Timmy Hill failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 38.626s 2. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 38.807s + 0.181s 3. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 38.807s + 0.181s 4. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 38.812s + 0.186s 5. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 38.812s + 0.186s 6. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 38.850s + 0.224s 7. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 38.877s + 0.251s 8. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 38.878s + 0.252s 9. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 38.880s + 0.254s 10. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 38.893s + 0.267s 11. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 38.908s + 0.282s 12. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 38.919s + 0.293s 13. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 38.977s + 0.351s 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 39.018s + 0.392s 15. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 39.062s + 0.436s 16. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 39.116s + 0.490s 17. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 39.121s + 0.495s 18. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 39.149s + 0.523s 19. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 39.185s + 0.559s 20. David Stremme Inception Toyota 39.259s + 0.633s 21. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 39.263s + 0.637s 22. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 39.333s + 0.707s 23. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 39.413s + 0.787s 24. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 39.439s + 0.813s 25. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge 39.443s + 0.817s 26. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 39.464s + 0.838s 27. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 39.481s + 0.855s 28. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 39.540s + 0.914s 29. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 39.559s + 0.933s 30. Josh Wise Front Row Ford 39.760s + 1.134s 31. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 39.812s + 1.186s 32. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 39.865s + 1.239s 33. Casey Mears Germain Ford 39.880s + 1.254s 34. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 39.904s + 1.278s 35. Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 39.921s + 1.295s 36. JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota 39.934s + 1.308s 37. Brendan Gaughan Childress Chevrolet 40.087s + 1.461s 38. David Ragan Front Row Ford 40.119s + 1.493s 39. Mike Bliss Humphrey-Smith Toyota 40.157s + 1.531s 40. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 40.254s + 1.628s 41. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 40.313s + 1.687s 42. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford 40.374s + 1.748s 43. Reed Sorenson Turn One Chevrolet 40.194s + 1.568s Did not qualify: Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 40.343s + 1.717s Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 40.349s + 1.723s Timmy Hill Max Q/Rick Ware Ford 40.464s + 1.838s