The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was trying it’s first group qualifying format of the year, meanwhile Jamie McMurray was trying to pick up a first of his own for 2013.
During the qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, McMurray won the pole for Sunday’s Toyota-Save Mart 350 when he posted a qualifying lap of 4.986 mph on the 1.99-mile road course. Saturday’s pole win gave McMurray his first pole award of the season and second at Sonoma since 2007.
Marcos Ambrose, who led the speed charts in first practice on Friday and also a race favorite, qualified in second and will be starting on the front row alongside McMurray.
Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle qualified third and fourth followed by defending race winner Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon to close out the top 10.
Meanwhile, McMurray’s Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya qualified in 13th. Montoya, along with Ambrose, went into qualifying as one of the race favorites considering Montoya has won at Sonoma in 2007, the same race McMurray had won the pole in.
Saturday’s qualifying session was the first time NASCAR had used group qualifying within the Cup Series to set up the race field at a road course. The qualifying system had been used only with in Nationwide Series. During the Cup Series qualifying session eight groups of five to six drivers each went out on the track to make their laps and were sent off within five seconds of each other.
Heading into the race on Sunday it will be interesting to see which driver will capture the win in the season’s first of two road course races. Some drivers are looking for their first win of the season, while others look to continue their latest success or win their first road course race.