Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray. Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

Jamie McMurray No.1 Cessna Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Racing Chevrolet has the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Sonoma Raceway with a blistering lap of 96.350 mph/74.354 seconds. He and 21 other drivers broke the existing qualifying track record of 95.262 mph/1:15.203 seconds set June 2012 by Marcos Ambrose. This is McMurray’s third pole at Sonoma Raceway and tenth overall in his twelve year Cup career with 418 Cup races.

Starting on the front row besides Jamie Mac will be local driver, A.J.Allmendinger No.47 Kingsford/Clorox JTG Daughterey Racing Chevrolet. AJ was leading both qualifying sessions for most of their duration until being pipped at the last minute. Allmendinger is the only driver in the top eleven who doesn’t drive for a big/multi-car team.

The other local driver, Kyle Larson No.42 Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, will start third and is the top Cup Rookie.

AJ Almendinger

Carl Edwards

Kurt Busch

Left to right: A.J.Allmendinger, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch. Photos by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images.

Fourth and fifth were Carl Edwards No.99 Aflac Roush Racing Ford and Kurt Busch No.41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.

Sixth through twelfth were Kevin Harvick No.4 Outback/Budweiser Folds of Honor Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet; Ryan Newman No.31 Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet; Brian Vickers No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, Paul Menard No.27 Richmond Menards Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet; Joey Logano No.22 Shell Pennzoil Penske Racing Ford; Danica Patrick No.10 GoDaddy Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet; and Casey Mears No.13 GEICO Germain Racing Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick

Ryan Newman

Brian Vickers

Left to right: Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers. Photos by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images.

McMurray said “Jamie McMurray This knockout qualifying is just an emotional roller coaster, from not making it in the top twelve and having to go back out and bump your way in to then being on the pole – there’s a lotta highs and lows that go with it and it’s really cool for us to go from kinda being bumped out and coming back and sitting on the pole. So it’s is pretty cool. It will be an interesting race, as I think drivers will be really aggressive on the last two or three restarts. It will be interesting if we have a green-white-checkered flag finish.”

Allmendinger said “I wish we would have stuck to the old way (of qualifying.) Everybody made one run, and we were pretty good after that. I’m proud of everybody on this No. 47 race team. Going into qualifying I honestly thought we didn’t have a great car for qualifying. I was really happy with it in race trim. I was cautiously optimistic about it. But, I felt like I put in two good laps out there. Kingsford Chevy is good. To have Clorax its home race, and start up front. It will be a long battle tomorrow, but we have a good starting spot. So we will have a clean view, and go have some fun tomorrow.”

Larson, who may be the only Cup driver who has never before raced at Sonoma Raceway and has been said to have trouble learning to shift, said – despite having spotters who are really high so they can see the track better – that he relies a lot on his teammate, pole sitter McMurray. The veteran has spent a lot of time going over the track dynamics with Larson, corner by corner, strategy by strategy. “I definitely think having a teammate like that really helps. He’s obviously really fast and willing to work with me and teach me a lot, which is great.” Larson also admitted he and others were running the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race to gain more experience. Something clicked, as Larson has the K&N Pole for Saturday afternoon’s race.

The temperature was in the mid-seventies, with strong breezes, rather than Friday’s wind gusts.

In the first Cup qualifying session, Allmendinger led for 24 of the 30-minute session, before being knocked down by Joey Logano No.22 Shell Pennzoil Penske Racing Ford.

There were surprises in the new Cup qualifying format. The top five Chase contenders didn’t make the cut to the Top Twelve, nor were there any Hendrick Racing cars making it to Q2. Another big surprise was how poorly Marcos Ambrose No.9 DeWalt Petty Motorsports Ford qualified. He who had held the qualifying track record for two years ended up twenty-third for Sunday’s race.

Kyle Larson's Helmet
Kyle Larson’s Helmet. Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

In K&N Pro Series West Series qualifying, Cup Rookie Kyle Larson No.42 Clorox Chevrolet has the pole position with a lap of 92.794 mph. Although Sonoma Raceway is the closest NASCAR and/or road course closest to his hometown of Elk Grove in Northern California, this weekend is the first time Larson has driven the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course. As a child, he visited the track twice with his parents. Not that he’s that old now. He’s 22 years old now and will be a father in December, although he doesn’t look old enough to vote.

Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr No.99 Roush Performance Racing Ford was second fastest, followed by K&N veteran and current points leader, Greg Pursley No.26 GPM / Star Nursery / Real Water Ford. Another K&N veteran, Cole Custer No.00 NAPA Filters Toyota was fourth and going for his second win this season. Dylan Lupton Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford, last year’s K&N Rookie of the Year, was fifth.

Cup Rookie Austin Dillon No.21 Golden Gate Meat/RCR Chevrolet went two seconds faster in qualifying than he did Friday, and will grid eighth. Starting ninth will be David Mayhew No.17 Steak & Grape/MMI Services; he also will be qualifying Saturday for the absent J.J.Yeley, who is gridded twenty-second in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America. Yeley will start at the back of the Toyota/SaveMart 350 Sprint Cup Race Sunday noon. Justin Algaier No.83 Griggs Brothers/Brandt Chevrolet qualified thirteenth of 28 drivers who ran the session.

The first K&N session was stopped for the spectacular blown engine of Zack Huffman No.38 RMC General Contractors Toyota. He laid down a crop duster layer of smoke through Turn Ten and then neatly executed a 180 spin at Pit Lane entrance, completely enveloped in his smoke. As that was his flyer lap, he showed at the bottom of the list with zero time. Michael Annett No.31 TMC/Pilot Chevrolet was not on track. Those two will be on the last row.

Pre-Q Cup Pit Lane