MARCOS AMBROSE of Australia took the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position for the second week in a row, piloting his No.9 Ford to a 1:15.203/95.262 mph. He pulled the fast lap out of his Akubra late in the afternoon, under partly cloudy skies, putting him in the catbird seat for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 24th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Race at Sonoma in Northern California.
Last week Ambrose qualified at 200+ mph and this weekend his time was under 100 mph. He said “I was more nervous running 90 mph than I was running 200. I’m thrilled. It was a good lap. We brought a brand new hot rod for this race, and it is even better than what we had here last year.”
RICHARD PETTY, Petty Motorsports team owner, said “Well, winning this week was not as unexpected as what last week was. That, I tried to tell him and I didn’t want to put any pressure on him for when he did come out here. I guess everything went good. The big deal is now to get ready for the race.”
Crew Chief TODD PARROTT said “That is really cool. I think what the man did today was incredible. I sat there on the pit wall and watched the Sprint Vision and was in awe of that lap. I have seen a lot of qualifying laps here, but that was one of the smoothest, easiest looking laps I have ever seen. I am really proud of him.”
Starting on the front row with Ambrose is JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet. Gordon was gracious in saying “You’ve got to give credit where credit is due and Marcos laid down a heck of a lap.” Earlier in the day, Gordon had said that Ambrose was one of three drivers with road racing background to watch, and “They really have stepped up the game now that they’re in solid teams.” The other two drivers Gordon mentioned were JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.42 Chevrolet and A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.22 Dodge. JPM will start twelfth, and AJ seventeenth.
The electronic billboard seemed to change with every new qualifier at the end of the session. Rounding out the top five qualifiers were JIM JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet, GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford and MARTIN TRUEX, Jr/No.56 Toyota.
Forty-four drivers qualified and 43 will start Sunday’s race. The odd man out will be BRIAN SIMO/No.30 Toyota, who was racing for local team owner, KEVIN BUCKLER/TRG Racing. Buckler fields teams in Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series on a regular basis, but has cut back his NASCAR involvement this year.
Points leader MATT KENSETH/No.17 Ford qualified ninth, with DALE EARNHARDT Jr/No.88 Chevrolet in P19.
Two drivers made the field on Owner’s Points – TOMY DRISS/No.10 Chevrolet-making his Cup debut; and LANDON CASSILL/No.83 Toyota. They will start in Row 21. The top Rookie was JOSH WISE/No.26 Ford.
The official grid won’t be set until Sunday/race morning.
The field consists of 16 Chevrolets, twelve each for Ford and Toyota, and three Dodges.