Denny Hamlin secured pole position for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Fontana in Friday's qualifying session.
After a tumultuous few weeks that have featured a fine for criticising the quality of Cup racing and altercations with Joey Logano on and off track at Bristol, Hamlin put his driving back into the headlines with an early lap of 38.410 seconds.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was able to hang on at the top with that mark and claim pole.
"It takes forever on this racetrack," Hamlin admitted after waiting for the rest of the field to try and beat his time.
"It's good to get a pole here, especially going out this early. It's a pretty good confidence boost that you've got a good race car."
Greg Biffle and championship leader Brad Keselowski were second and third in qualifying, but neither will start there. The two Fords both had engine failures during practice - very early in the opening session in Biffle's case - so will drop to the back for the green flag on Sunday.
That will make it a Gibbs one-two-three at the front, as Hamlin's team-mates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth move up to start right behind him, followed by Hamlin's Bristol sparring partner Logano.
Bristol winner Kasey Kahne kicked himself for mistakes as he qualified 16th. All four Hendrick cars were between 15th and 19th, with Keselowski's points chasers Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson 15th and 18th.
Among the smaller teams, Furniture Row's Kurt Busch and Germain's Casey Mears managed to get their cars up to 10th and 11th.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 38.410s 2. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 38.458s + 0.048s 3. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford 38.472s + 0.062s 4. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota 38.476s + 0.066s 5. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota 38.567s + 0.157s 6. Joey Logano Penske Ford 38.603s + 0.193s 7. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 38.653s + 0.243s 8. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 38.738s + 0.328s 9. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 38.753s + 0.343s 10. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet 38.777s + 0.367s 11. Casey Mears Germain Ford 38.886s + 0.476s 12. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 38.901s + 0.491s 13. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 38.945s + 0.535s 14. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 38.979s + 0.569s 15. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 38.998s + 0.588s 16. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 39.051s + 0.641s 17. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 39.081s + 0.671s 18. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 39.121s + 0.711s 19. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 39.128s + 0.718s 20. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 39.133s + 0.723s 21. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 39.162s + 0.752s 22. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 39.194s + 0.784s 23. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 39.195s + 0.785s 24. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 39.222s + 0.812s 25. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 39.291s + 0.881s 26. AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet 39.320s + 0.910s 27. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 39.340s + 0.930s 28. David Reutimann BK Toyota 39.382s + 0.972s 29. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 39.418s + 1.008s 30. Josh Wise Front Row Ford 39.422s + 1.012s 31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford 39.448s + 1.038s 32. David Stremme Swan Toyota 39.458s + 1.048s 33. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 39.465s + 1.055s 34. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 39.671s + 1.261s 35. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 39.760s + 1.350s 36. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet 39.760s + 1.350s 37. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet 39.955s + 1.545s 38. Scott Riggs Xxxtreme Ford 40.038s + 1.580s 39. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford 40.118s + 1.646s 40. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 40.155s + 1.679s 41. Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 40.369s + 1.802s 42. David Ragan Front Row Ford 40.492s + 1.889s 43. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 40.645s + 1.992s