Joey Logano isn't someone traditionally considered to be a strong performer on road courses, but he put the #20 on pole position at Infineon Raceway ahead of more fancied road specialists like Juan Montoya and Marcos Ambrose, and even ahead of the 'road ringers' like Boris Said, brought in specially by teams for the occasion.
"I never looked at myself as a road course racer," admitted the 21-year-old who handled the left- and right-turns at Sears Point with the gusto of a veteran. "This is the last place that I figured we'd get a pole.
"I was surprised. I felt like my lap was OK. I didn't feel like it was stellar, by no means," he said afterwards. "I didn't really think it was going to hold up, and I don't think any of my guys thought it was going to hold up. But we're really pumped up right now!"
Logano's achievement is all the more impressive given that the series' drivers most experienced with road courses - Marcos Ambrose and Juan Montoya - will start from eighth and 17th, while the road course specialists specially imported by teams for the event struggled, with Boris Said starting in 30th and Tony Ave failing to qualify in the #38 Ford subbing for Travis Kvapil.
It's only Logano's second Cup pole position in his series career, his best previous start here being 12th in his début in 2009. It makes him the youngest driver on a NASCAR road course pole, eclipsing the previous record holder Parnelli Jones who was 24 when he claimed pole at Riverside all the way back in 1958.
Logano put an end to the recent run of three consecutive pole positions for Penske's Kurt Busch, who could only manage 11th place in the unfamiliar road course surroundings after being fastest in the earlier practice session.
"We were fastest in practice but just couldn't put down the qualifying lap that we needed," said Busch. "We missed it in turns 4 and 7 and were just slow in 10. When you add all that up, you just can't give away that much time on this track."
His team mate Brad Keselowski will start from 15th.
Logano will instead be joined on the front row of the grid by Earnhardt Ganassi's Jamie McMurray, while Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard claimed his best-ever road qualifying position to start third alongside Logano's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin, who will be hoping for back-to-back victories after winning last week at Michigan.
Mark Martin had two qualifying runs during the session, as the first was affected by a piece of metal debris on the track. His first time would have seen him in 25th place, but the second was 0.4s faster and put him in 16th place for the start of the race.