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He’s well back in the Chase standings (149 points behind Johnson) and hasn’t been particularly strong at qualifying this season. Kenseth and his team seemed to find something Kansas, where he qualified eighth and it carried over into California.

“It was a good lap for us,” Kenseth said. “Obviously, I’m usually not the best qualifier, but we made some adjustments and fixed the things I was complaining about in practice and got a good lap out of it.”

Johnson is in good position to pad his lead as he races toward a fifth straight Sprint Cup championship.

He rallied from a poor qualifying session in Kansas last week and worked his way through the crowd to finish 12th and move past Hamlin in the season race. Johnson likes racing in California, too, with four of his five titles at Auto Club Speedway coming over the past six races in his home state.

“It’s going to be an exciting race and honestly, I’m very excited for what it’s going to be like on Sunday,” Johnson said. “I think we’re going to put on a good show and really race hard for this win.”

So will a lot of other Chase drivers _ they’ll have to after the way they qualified.