It was indeed Happy Hour for JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet Saturday noon at Sonoma for the last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session. He continued his domination from the first session, in which he turned a lap of 94.312 mph/1:15.961 in twelve laps.
Gordon, who grew up in nearby Vallejo CA, led the entire last session, even though he only turned 21 laps in the 75-minute session.
Gordon has had five poles and five victories in 19 starts at Sonoma. His last win was in 2006. Last weekend in Michigan he said he wasn’t really targeting Sonoma for a victory. After his Sonoma front row qualifying lap Friday afternoon, Gordon said his focus for the Sonoma race had changed. “Yeah, it has changed since I drove this No.24 car today off the truck. The car has just been really solid ever since we unloaded. I’m pretty excited. There are some guys that are going to be tough to beat. Man, our car is driving so good and I’m having fun out there. It’s been awhile since we qualified like this and has a day like this, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow. Our chances are good right now.” No doubt Gordon is really a Happy Camper.
Merriam-Webster has several definitions for domination, including supremacy or preeminence over another; exercise of mastery or ruling power; and exercise of preponderant, governing, or controlling influence. Sounds like Jeff.
The order didn’t change much throughout the session. A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.22 Dodge from Los Gatos CA, in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, was in the top five the whole session, running 25 laps. He ran as high as second, before finishing fifth overall.
Second through fourth were GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.42 Chevrolet and JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet.
Pole Sitter MARCOS AMBROSE/No.9 Ford was eleventh, last weekend’s race winner, DALE EARNHARDT, Jr/No.88 Chevrolet was twentieth, and Points Leader MATT KENSETH/No.17 Ford was twenty-fifth.
Last year’s Sonoma winner, KURT BUSCH, didn’t run at all Saturday – he was in Elkhart Lake for the Saturday NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The car was qualified by COLIN BRAUN, who was racing in Wisconsin in the Grand-Am Rolex Series race – he and teammate SCOTT MAYER finished fifth in the Daytona Prototype class.
If Ambrose wins the 24th Annual Toyota/Save Mart race Sunday, his primary sponsor, Stanley, will donate $1 million to the Children’s Miracle Network. If he doesn’t win, Stanley, Ace Hardware and Children’s Miracle Network will donate $100,000 to help children in hospitals. “There’s nothing like added pressure, of course and to win a race and $1 million for sick kids is definitely up there on the stakes of just trying to win the race. We did this last year and came up a little bit short, so I’m doubly determined this year to try and win the race and help those kids and help our race team see the success that we all hoped.”
In the first session, five drivers drove at least ten consecutive laps, and four of the five drivers who did so ran their best times from their first to tenth lap. Best average was 91.866 mph, turned by BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Dodge.
In Happy Hour, three drivers turned ten consecutive laps, and those three turned their fastest times mid-way through their on-track session. DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota was fastest at 91.559 mph.
Sunday’s 110-lap race starts at high noon Pacific Time, and will be shown live on TNT.