Road course favorite Marcos Ambrose wins Sonoma pole

Marcos Ambrose (L), driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with car owner Richard Petty (R) in Victory Lane after qualifying for the pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma on June 22, 2012 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose (L), driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with car owner Richard Petty (R) in Victory Lane after qualifying for the pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma on June 22, 2012 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

SONOMA, Calif. — On Friday at Sonoma, Marcos Ambrose ran less than half his fast as he had last Saturday at Michigan — but the result was the same.

Touring the 1.99-mile road course in 75.203 seconds (95.262 mph), Ambrose won the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, his second Coors Light pole award in as many weekends and the second of his career. Ambrose withstood a determined challenge from Jeff Gordon (95.067 mph), who, as the last driver to make a qualifying attempt, came up just short.

Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, qualified third for the 16th NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at 94.795 mph. Greg Biffle (94.722 mph) was fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (94.686 mph).

Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, last year’s winner Kurt Busch, series leader Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman will start from positions six through 10, respectively. Dale Earnhardt Jr., last week’s winner at Michigan and second in points, qualified 19th.

Ambrose won the pole at Michigan last week at 203.241 mph on a lightning-fast, repaved two-mile oval.

“I think Kentucky next week is going to be about 175 miles per hour, so I’ll be gunning for that as well,” Ambrose quipped. “I’m just really thrilled today. We put a lot of effort into this race . . . We brought a brand new hot rod for this race — better than the one we had here last year — and I’m just thrilled that we can convert.

“It’s only one lap. We’ve got to do a lot more on Sunday, but at least we can go home and say we had the fastest car. It was a good lap. I was more nervous, I think, running (95) miles an hour than I was running 200.”

Gordon was ahead of Ambrose’s pace until he reached the last two corners.

“There are always places you can gain, and it’s risk versus reward,” Gordon said. “There are some places where you can lose, too. I felt like I was aggressive in areas where the car was comfortable in practice, and it was giving me signs and feedback that it had good grip.

“I knew it was a better lap than what we had in practice, but I felt like there were some areas where I left a little bit. If you had to do it all over again, I’d love to take these segments and try to do them again, (but) all in all, I’m very happy.”

Brian Simo failed to make the 43-car field.


1.  (9)  Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.262 mph.
2. (24)  Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 95.067 mph.
3. (48)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 94.795 mph.
4. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 94.722 mph.
5. (56)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 94.686 mph.
6. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 94.679 mph.
7. (18)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 94.632 mph.
8. (51)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 94.557 mph.
9. (17)  Matt Kenseth, Ford, 94.524 mph.
10. (39)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 94.509 mph.
11. (99)  Carl Edwards, Ford, 94.503 mph.
12. (42)  Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 94.319 mph.
13.  (2)  Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 94.269 mph.
14. (20)  Joey Logano, Toyota, 94.209 mph.
15.  (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 94.206 mph.
16. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 94.199 mph.
17. (22)  AJ Allmendinger, Dodge, 94.184 mph.
18. (47)  Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 94.103 mph.
19. (88)  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 94.026 mph.
20. (13)  Casey Mears, Ford, 93.991 mph.
21. (55)  Brian Vickers, Toyota, 93.949 mph.
22. (95)  Scott Speed, Ford, 93.913 mph.
23. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 93.840 mph.
24. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 93.824 mph.
25.  (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 93.732 mph.
26. (29)  Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 93.728 mph.
27. (38)  David Gilliland, Ford, 93.524 mph.
28. (32)  Boris Said, Ford, 93.268 mph.
29. (34)  David Ragan, Ford, 93.166 mph.
30. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 93.153 mph.
31. (78)  Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 93.064 mph.
32. (36)  Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 92.964 mph.
33. (98)  David Mayhew, Ford, 92.833 mph.
34.  (7)  Robby Gordon, Dodge, 92.563 mph.
35. (31)  Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 92.459 mph.
36. (87)  Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 92.140 mph.
37. (19)  Chris Cook, Toyota, 92.076 mph.
38. (49)  JJ Yeley, Toyota, 91.927 mph.
39. (93)  Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 91.836 mph.
40. (26) Josh Wise, Ford, 91.729 mph.
41. (10) Tomy Drissi, Chevrolet, Owner Points
42. (83)  Landon Cassill, Toyota, Owner Points
43. (33)  Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, 91.686 mph.

Failed to qualify

44. (30) Brian Simo, Toyota, 91.078 mph.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.