FONTANA — Cars bumper to bumper, and not moving.
It looked like Friday afternoon on I-15, not pit road at Auto Club Speedway.
On a day when wicked winds across turns three and four kept drivers from putting pedal to the metal, a draft developed on the two-mile super speedway.
Since nobody wanted to go out alone in the breeze, let alone become the unwitting draft partner to benefit a rival, one of the cars in the field for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wanted to leave pit road for the third and final round of pole qualifying.
When they did exit, it was too late. Nobody got back to the start/finish line in time to post a lap, and the pole reverted to Austin Dillon’s winning time in round two in the No. 3 Dow Chemical Chevrolet.
“When the clock (had) under 45 seconds left, I knew nobody would get back to the line in time,” Dillon said after his fourth career pole and first since 2016. “Winning the pole without taking a lap, that was kind of interesting.”
Dillon was the only driver to get around the track in under 40 seconds, and to break 180 mph (180.081).
Kevin Harvick’s second-round speed of 179.386 was good for second place and the outside of row one.
The Bakersfield native’s Stewart Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, was third, with Kyle Busch fourth.
Busch seeks to tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty’s alltime record of 200 victories in NASCAR’s national touring series.
He’ll make his first bid in the Roseanne 300 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series today.
Earlier this week, Petty paid Busch a great compliment.
“I think if Kyle had raced at the same time myself and David Pearson did, he would have been just as competitive,” declared The King.
Petty and Pearson (206) are the only drivers to win more than 100 Cup races.
“I was very honored that Richard said that,” Busch told an Auto Club Speedway press conference Friday. “I would like to think I could do that, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Different place, different time.
“No one will ever touch 200 Cup wins. I just want to keep going out and racing, and winning.”