Date: June 27, 2015
Event: Save Mart 350k Qualifying (Round 16 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (10-turn, 1.99-mile road course)
Pole Winner: A.J. Allmendinger of JTG Daugherty Racing (74.385 seconds at 96.310 mph)
SHR Lineup: Kurt Busch (2nd, 74.551 seconds at 96.095 mph)
Tony Stewart (7th, 74.888 seconds at 95.663 mph)
Kevin Harvick (17th, 75.034 seconds at 95.477 mph)
Danica Patrick (21st, 75.121 seconds at 95.366 mph)
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Saturday at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway by setting the second-fastest lap in qualifying for Sunday’s Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Busch turned a lap of 74.551 seconds at 96.095 mph around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course in the final qualifying round.
“It’s a nice package that (crew chief) Tony Gibson gave me, and all the guys back at the shop,” said Busch, who won at Sonoma in 2011. “Thanks to them for building this special car for a road-course race. There was a little apprehension coming in because we didn’t have testing sessions or any kind of shakedown sessions. And so, to be outside pole with the Haas Automation Chevy, that’s awesome. That’s what we wanted. And now we’ve got all kinds of strategy plays to figure out to get into race mode. So, we did our job. We’re on the front row.”
Qualifying consisted of two rounds. The first was 25 minutes, with every driver on the track vying to set the fastest lap. The fastest 12 drivers from that session advanced to the final, 10-minute round of qualifying where they battled for the pole. Positions 1-12 were set by speeds in the final round. The remaining 43-car field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance past the first round.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified seventh with a time of 74.888 seconds at 95.663 mph.
“It was good,” said Stewart, who is a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Sonoma (2001 and 2005). “It wasn’t as good as our second run was. I was really happy with our second run. I just overdrove a couple of the corners trying to make up time to try to make a pole run out of it. Compared to where we were yesterday, I was really happy with where our Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy ended up today.”
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 17th with a time of 75.034 seconds at 95.477 mph.
“Our Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevy is handing well and doing all the good things that you want it to, and it’s really good in qualifying trim,” said Harvick, whose best Sprint Cup finish at Sonoma is second, earned in 2007. “I was just too easy in (turns) two, three and four, and OK down the hill, and then I got up the racetrack both laps in (turn) 11. That cost us three or four tenths both times. We have a good car. I’ve got some cars to pass. We passed a lot of cars last year, but I’m just not very good at the qualifying thing here, for whatever reason.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 21st with a time of 75.121 seconds at 95.366 mph.
“On the first run in our GoDaddy Chevy, I wasn’t able to get the tires warmed up as much as I needed to,” said Patrick, who will make her third Sprint Cup start at Sonoma on Sunday. “I went up the hill and it wasn’t too bad, but then it got tight. The second run felt pretty good. We picked up some speed, but it wasn’t enough to get into the top-12 and make it to the next round.”
A.J. Allmendinger led the final round of knockout qualifying by taking the pole with a lap of 74.385 seconds at 96.310 mph. It was his third career Sprint Cup pole, his first of the season and his first at Sonoma.
The 10 other drivers behind Allmendinger and Busch who made it to the final round of qualifying were Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Stewart, Casey Mears, David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.
Larson set a new track qualifying record in the first round of knockout qualifying with a time of 74.186 seconds at 96.568 mph, besting the previous mark of 74.354 seconds at 96.350 mph set by Jamie McMurray on June 21, 2014.
Forty-four drivers attempted to qualify for the Save Mart 350k. Brendan Gaughan was the lone driver who did not make the 43-car field.
The SaveMart 350k gets underway at 3 p.m. EDT Sunday with live coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.