McMurray Wins Sonoma Pole (Again)

Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray won the pole for Sunday's race at Sonoma with a track-record lap of 96.350 mph. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Starting Lineup | Qualifying Results

SONOMA, Calf. - Now, Jamie McMurray has to find a way to finish what he’s started.

For the third time in his career - and second year in a row - McMurray will start on the pole at Sonoma Raceway.

McMurray’s qualifying success, though, has never led to a strong finish. The previous two times he started on the pole, he finished no better than 25th. Other than a runner-up finish at this road course in 2004, McMurray has never scored a top-10 finish here.

“This race is about having good strategy and having a little bit of luck,’’ McMurray said. “It’s about not getting run into in Turn 4 or Turn 7 on a restart. I’ve run enough races here that I’ve had every issue you could have with running out of gas ... to getting wrecked in Turn 7 on a restart because someone from 15th dive-bombed me into the corner with no chance of making it.’’

Saturday, McMurray was good enough to win the pole with a track-record lap of 96.350 mph. He will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger (96.088 mph).

Rookie Kyle Larson, who ran Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race to gain more experience on a road course, qualified third. Carl Edwards (fourth) and Kurt Busch completed the top five.

Others did not fare as well.

Marcos Ambrose, who had never started worse than eighth at Sonoma, qualified 23rd. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson starts 22nd, his worst starting spot at this track since 2007. Kasey Kahne starts 30th, tying the worst starting spot he’s had at Sonoma. Jeff Gordon qualified 15th. He’s only started worse at Sonoma one time in 21 previous races.

Also struggling was Clint Bowyer, who won this race two years ago. He was fast in Friday’s practice sessions but qualified 25th.

“Well that wasn’t what we expected,’’ Bowyer said. “We were fast all day (Friday), just didn't have enough grip and missed Turn 4. We will just have to pass a few more cars (Sunday).”

Allmendinger, who tested here earlier this month, admits it is a relief to start in the front.

“There’s a lot of ways to get yourself in trouble by something you’re not even doing,’’ Allmendinger said. “Hopefully, we can get through the first couple of corners clean and then you can kind of single-file out and run your own pace. Once you start getting back in the middle of the pack, everybody kind of runs the same speed, it’s tough to pass and it’s easy to burn your tires off and make mistakes.’’

Larson admits he surprised himself with his strong qualifying effort and knows he faces a challenge in Sunday’s race.

“I’ve still got a lot more to learn, especially when I get a few laps on the tires,’’ Larson said. “I struggle with that. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot throughout the race. I’ve just got to try to stay out of trouble.’’

 

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