Knockout: McMurray claims pole for Toyota/Save Mart 350
JUN 21, 2014 2:31p ET
Northern California clearly agrees with Jamie McMurray. So does road-course racing, apparently.
For the second year in a row, McMurray won the pole for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway in the heat of scenic wine country.
Under crisp, clear California skies on Saturday morning, McMurray put down a track-record lap of 96.350 miles per hour in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, which was enough to top the 96.088 mph lap AJ Allmendinger posted in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Chevrolet.
"I always look forward to coming out here," said McMurray, who has a best finish of second at the 1.99-mile road course. "First off, it's a really pretty environment to be at and it's also maybe one of the more comfortable tracks for me on the circuit. I came here and tested in 2003 and it’s just been a great place for me. I've qualified exceptionally well here."
The pole was McMurray's first of the season and 10th in 418 career Sprint Cup starts. Three of those poles have come on road courses.
In the first round of qualifying, McMurray put down a qualifying lap, then got bumped out of the top 12 and had to make a second run in the first round. But McMurray was able to advance into the second round and then on to take the pole.
"This knockout qualifying is just an emotional roller-coaster, from not making it into the top 12 and having to go back out and bump your way in and then being on the pole," McMurray. "There are a lot of highs and lows that go with it. It’s real cool for us to kind of get bumped out and then come back and win the pole."
"Jamie put in a hell of a good lap, so congrats to him," said second-qualifier Allmendinger.
Neither McMurray nor Allmendinger has won a race yet this season and qualifying on the front row gives them a huge leg up at possibly winning a race and getting into the Chase for the Sprint Cup as a result.
Starting on Row 2 will be McMurray's teammate, rookie Kyle Larson, flanked by Carl Edwards and his Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Row 3 will be Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. Completing the top 10 were Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Joey Logano. Danica Patrick qualified 11th.
There were two rounds of qualifying today, a 30-minute session for the full field, followed by a 10-minute round for the fastest 12 cars from the opening stanza.
What was most surprising, perhaps, about the qualifying round was the number of good drivers in fast cars that didn’t make it to the second round.
Among the drivers failing to advance to the second round were Brad Keselowski (13th), Jeff Gordon (15), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17th), Kyle Busch (20th), Tony Stewart (21st), Jimmie Johnson (22nd), Marcos Ambrose (23rd) and Clint Bowyer (25th).
Hendrick Motorsports, which has won the last five races in a row, failed to advance a single driver to the final round.