For the second time in Sonoma Raceway history, two members of the same race team have taken both positions of the front row for the Toyota SaveMart 350.
The culprits: Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing. Starting first and second respectively, the two have accumulated a total of 20 years of experience in the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series (MENCS).
For Larson, this is his sixth Coors Light Pole Award of the 2017 season and his second in his last two races.
The previous came at Michigan International Speedway and would, in part, assist in achieving his second win of the season.
Larson, who is also the current points leader in the MENCS, commented on the momentum heading into the weekend and said that the success from the week prior has played a role in his performance so far:
“I think momentum is big in everything. The momentum helps confidence and confidence is also super important. I got both of those going for us right now and it’s paying off every time I hit the racetrack.”
The fastest lap of the dual stage qualifying session, posted by Larson, did not come without intrigue. On turn 11 of the 12-turn track, Larson wheel-hopped his right rear tire resulting in the loss of precious milliseconds.
Larson was able overcome the mistake by getting his No. 42 Energizer Chevrolet back on course and relying on other areas of the track in which he shaved time off.
Despite the mishap, the 24-year-old California native finished the lap with the fastest time of the weekend at 1:15.177. Just seven-tenths of a second faster than his teammate McMurray who posted a time of 1:15.249.
Larson commented on the incident and said:
“I wheel-hopped into 11 but was able to get turned and pointed down the straight-away. You know, not bad. I was surprised to see the lap time that I ran pop up on my dash but we’ll take it. It’s cool to get the pole here in my home state.”
On the other side of the front row, Larson’s teammate, McMurray, will be making his fifteenth start at Sonoma.
In those 15 races, McMurray has qualified first three times but has yet to be able to win thus far.
When asked about what makes this race different, McMurray said:
“I’ve qualified really well here. I certainly don’t have the finishes for the way that we’ve run throughout the races. I think I ran out of gas in my first or second year on the last lap. I’ve had a lot of flat tires here and they just kill your race… If we can have a trouble-free race tomorrow, we’ll have a chance to win when it’s over.”
He also said that qualifying second is not necessarily a bad sign and that his No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet will have a shot at achieving his first win at Sonoma:
“At road courses, you only have to have about a fifth place car to win. Circumstances and track position and issues, you don’t have to have the best car to win here.”
Other notable qualifiers:
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78) — 3rd, with a time of 1:15.453
Danica Patrick (No. 10) — 6th, with a time of 1:15.591
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88) — 10th, with a time of 1:15.914
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48) — 24th, with a time of 1:16.248