Denny Hamlin on pole for Fontana

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Denny Hamlin will start from the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles after throwing down a lap of 187.451 mph in today’s qualifying session.

Hamlin comes to Southern California after being involved in a post-race feud with former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano one week ago at Bristol Motor Speedway. He’ll share the front row with Greg Biffle on Sunday, but only momentarily — “The Biff,” as well as current championship leader Brad Keselowski (who had the third-fastest lap), will go to the rear of the field due to engine swaps before qualifying.

In addition to Hamlin’s pole run, JGR had a good Friday afternoon overall with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth claiming Top 5 starting spots as well. Logano qualified sixth, followed by Martin Truex Jr., defending Auto Club 400 champion Tony Stewart, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch to fill the Top 10 starting positions.

Last week’s winner at Bristol, Kasey Kahne, qualified 16th and is slated to start on the outside of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Row 8. As for Danica Patrick, she’ll have to once again attempt to fight her way from the back after posting the 40th-quickest time.

Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.)
Sunday, 3 pm ET

Track Specs
2-mile oval
Turns: 14 degrees of banking
Frontstretch: 11 degrees
Backstretch: 3 degrees

Race Distance: 200 laps/400 miles

Defending Race Champion: Tony Stewart

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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