May 15, 2021

by a NASCAR fanatic - not affiliated with NASCAR

It was all-Chip Ganassi Racing Saturday, as Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray gave the team a front row sweep during qualifying for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1).

Larson posted a best lap of 95.295 miles per hour, fastest of the 38 cars in the field, with McMurray a close second at 95.204 mph.

It was just the third career front row sweep for the team. The last time Ganassi drivers qualified 1-2 for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was the 2007 Brickyard 400, when Reed Sorenson won the pole over Juan Pablo Montoya. When Ganassi was partners with Teresa Earnhardt, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing had a 1-2 qualifying effort at Auto Club Speedway in 2010.

This was the third pole of the season and fourth of his Cup career for Larson, a native of Elk Grove, California.

“This is my home track, I grew up about an hour and a half from here,” said Larson, who qualified in the top 10 for the 11th time this year.  “So, I spent a lot of time in Napa Valley hanging out with (fellow racer) Rico Abreu and the Abreu family, so, always love coming to Sonoma.”

Last weekend, Larson won at Michigan and he is the favorite again this weekend after leading the final practice and now claiming the pole. No wonder he likes it here.

“It’s a fun place and our race cars are always fast,” said Larson. “I felt like I’ve had a shot at the pole every time I’ve qualified here and just haven’t gotten the job done.”

McMurray also put done a big lap but was philosophical about coming in behind his teammate.

“I thought I did a really good job. I don’t feel like I gave up,” said McMurray.  “There wasn’t a corner that stuck out. The first run in Turn 7, I messed up. But overall, it was a really good lap. Kyle (Larson) just got a little bit more.”

A pair of Toyotas will start on Row 2, with the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota starting third ahead of two-time Sonoma winner Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing entry.

“Overall it’s been good here for our Furniture Row Racing team and I am looking forward to tomorrow,” said Truex. “We can win from the third qualifying spot.”

“It’s a good starting spot and we have a fast car for tomorrow,” added Busch. “There are some really good cars we’re going to have to beat but think we will be part of that mix as well.”

Row 3 will consist of AJ Allmendinger and a surprising Danica Patrick, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 10th in his final Sonoma appearance. For Patrick, it was the third-best qualifying effort of her career.

For Patrick, who had qualified 20th or worse 10 times in the first 15 races of the year, this was a big showing.

“We haven’t exactly been sixth all season so this is good,” she said. “It is really nice to do well for Code 3 here. The cars have really improved in the last few years on road courses from when I first came to the team.”

Several of the sport’s biggest names failed to make it out of the first of the two qualifying rounds. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch qualified 17th, Brad Keselowski 23rd and Jimmie Johnson 24th. All three are past champions, with Johnson a seven-time finalists.

Of the handful of road-racing specialists in the field, the top qualifier was Billy Johnson, who qualified 26th in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.

Kyle Larson qualified on pole position for Sunday's Toyota Save Mart 350. (Photo: John K Harrelson/LAT Images)

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