McMurray Drives To Pole At Sonoma Road Course
Jamie McMurray of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing edged Marcos Ambrose of Richard Petty Motorsports for the Sprint Cup race pole at the Sonoma road course on Saturday.
Both McMurray and Ambrose qualified in the final five-car group (No. 8) in the debut of group qualifying in Cup, with Ambrose posting his lap first and McMurray topping him shortly thereafter. The pole award was McMurray’s first of the season, his second at Sonoma and the ninth of his career.
“We were just able to put it all together today,” McMurray said. “That is really cool. This is a really fun event. The race is really fun, it’s just that this place can get a little bit frustrating at the end of the race if they have a late-race restart. It’s always wild in turn four and turn seven. I have been on the good end of it and I’ve been on the bad end of it. Hopefully, we just put it all together tomorrow.”
Carl Edwards (94.779 mph) qualified third from group No. 5, followed by Greg Biffle (94.772 mph) and defending race winner Clint Bowyer (94.737 mph). Series leader Jimmie Johnson will start 19th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 26th and Danica Patrick 31st.
Ambrose, who set the track record of 95.262 mph last year, said his car lost power coming to the green flag to start his first qualifying lap.
“In our case, the motor quit running coming to the green flag, so I lost all my momentum coming to the green flag,” Ambrose said. “I thought about bailing out of that lap and trying to roll around for a second lap, but I wasn’t sure about engine temperatures and the tires… but I just went for it.
“I pretty much lost my mind there. I was really mad… but it was good enough to get the front row, and I’m proud of that, but I’m disappointed, obviously, that we didn’t get the pole.”
The new group-based qualifying format produced on-track issues almost immediately. Roughly two minutes into the session for group No.1, Victor Gonzalez Jr. went off course in Turn 10 while running behind David Stremme, who was slow out of the gate to start the session.
Gonzalez slammed into the tire barrier, ripping the left front fender of his No. 36 Chevrolet. The accident stopped the clock on the session, which featured a five-minute allotment for each group. Qualifying resumed after track clean-up.No Comment