Auto Racing / Sports

NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray gives the thumbs up winning the pole position during qualifying for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

McMurray wins pole position at Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. -- Jamie McMurray captured the pole position for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, his second straight and third in eight years, in knockout-style qualifying on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.

McMurray's average speed in the second round of qualifying was 96.350 mph, setting a new qualifying record for the 1.99-mile, 10 turn course. The previous record was 95.262 mph, set in 2012 by Marcos Ambrose.

AJ Allmendinger qualified second at 96.088 mph and will also start on the front row for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Sprint Cup rookie and McMurray's teammate, Kyle Larson, was third with a speed of 95.942 mph, followed by Carl Edwards (95.857) and Kurt Busch (95.704).

McMurray was fifth after the first round of qualifying, gaining a spot in the top 12 in his second hot lap of the session.

In the second round, McMurray's top time didn't come until the second half of the 10-minute session.

"This knockout qualifying is just an emotional roller-coaster," McMurray said. "From not making it in the top 12 having to go back out and bump your way in, to then being on the pole, there's a lot of highs and lows that go with it."

It was a strong result for Allmendinger, who will start in the top 10 for just the second time this season and for the second time in six races in Sonoma.

Allmendinger, who entered this week, 21st in the driver standings, was 15th fastest in Friday's final practice session and may need a victory Sunday to gain a spot in the season-ending Chase for the Cup.

"To at least start the race up front, it's a huge relief," Allmendinger said.

Joey Logano had the best speed in the first round of qualifying, averaging 96.197 mph. Behind him were Allmendinger, followed by Busch, Ryan Newman and McMurray. Others to finish in the top 12 and advance were Danica Patrick, Brian Vickers, Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard.

Of the drivers that finished in the top 10 in Sonoma last year, only Edwards, Kurt Busch and Harvick moved on to the second round.

(c)2014 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.)

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