Friday afternoon at Infineon Raceway, KASEY KAHNE drove the wheels off his red No.9 Ford to grab the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 Race. Kahne, last year’s Infineon victor, turned a lap of lap was 93.893 mph/76.30. The ride looked like it was on the wild side, but Kahne said he was in control. He admitted that he had at least one wheel on the ground at any given time. “They are heavy cars so they come down quick.”
This is Kahne’s second pole in seven starts at Infineon, and his seventeenth career pole. The Qualifying track record of 99.309 mph/72.138 sec on the current 10-turn, 1.99-mile course configuration was set by RUSTY WALLACE/Dodge in June 2000. NASCAR Cup races have been on this circuit since 1998, and running the wine country circuit since 1989.
Second through fifth on the grid will be JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet, KURT BUSCH/No.2 Dodge, KEVIN HARVICK/No.29 Chevrolet and JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet.
Update on fuel situation with Gordon’s car: NASCAR is still investigating the contaminated fuel issue in Gordon’s car – the only car so affected. It was Gordon’s team which first spotted the fuel problem in the garage, noticing the color was different. The fuel system was flushed and the car was never on track with the contaminated fuel. RAMSEY POSTEN, NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications, doesn’t know if the team will be penalized.
Gordon has raced at Infineon since 1998, and has more victories and more poles (five each) than any other NASCAR driver. Gordon has nine road course victories on his resume, and is tied with MARK MARTIN/No.5 Chevrolet for the most top ten finishes at Infineon Raceway – 13. Gordon has raced in 17 of the 21 previous Infineon races, and holds the record for the most money earned at Infineon – $2,229,749.
MARCOS AMBROSE/No.47 Toyota, who was tops in the first practice session, qualified fastest early on before being pipped by Gordon. Ambrose said he had a good lap going until his foot slipped off the pedal in Turn 11. The Aussie ended up sixth on the grid.
The fastest of those eleven drivers having to qualify based on time was BORIS SAID/No.26 Ford, who will start seventeenth. JAN MAGNUSSEN/No.09 Chevrolet will start in P32, while fellow Scandinavian, MATTIAS EKSTROM/No.83 Toyota will start in P38. PJ Jones/No.07 Toyota starts thirty-fifth.
The fastest (and only) Rookie was KEVIN CONWAY/No.34 Ford, starting forty-first.
DAVID RAGAN/No.6 Ford spun out exiting Turn Seven into the Esses, and hit the tire wall hard. Good thing he is guaranteed a starting position, as he’ll have to go to his backup car which will put him at the back of the grid for the race start. He won’t have far to go. Based on his Owner’s Points, he would have been forty-second on the grid.
Those not making Sunday’s race are MICHAEL WALTRIP/No.55 Toyota, BRIAN SIMO/No.36 Chevrolet, and BRANDON ASH/No.02 Dodge.
Sprint Cup has final and Happy Hour practice sessions Saturday morning. Three drivers will skip that so that they can compete in the Saturday NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America, an inaugural event. They are CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Ford (Q-19), BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.12 Dodge (Q-36), and PAUL MENARD/No.98 Ford (Q-18). Keselowski leads the NNS standings, 272 points ahead of Edwards. Menard is in sixth, 561 points off the leader. They are the only Cup drivers running full seasons in both series, since KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota recently announced he wasn’t going for the full NNS season.
They flew after Qualifying in private planes, a trip less than four hours. Coming back, they land at the nearby Sonoma Airport and take a helicopter to the track.