Records were made to be broken, especially in Sprint Cup qualifying. For the 11th time already this season, a driver smashed the previous track record en route to a pole. Jamie McMurray set the standard ahead of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, per NASCAR Stats:
This is the second year in a row that McMurray has sat on the pole at Sonoma Raceway, and three of his 10 career poles have come at the track, per Motor Racing Network's Dustin Long:
He took a moment to bask in the glory on Twitter:
The No. 1 car didn't start the day well after finishing out of the top 12 during the first qualifying run. McMurray found his groove during the second run, and nobody was stopping him from there, per NASCAR.com's Reid Spencer.
I was a little disappointed that we had to go back out and make another lap to get into the top 12, because I thought that was going to ruin our chances of getting a good spot or sitting on the pole. This knockout qualifying, it's an emotional roller coaster, from not making it in the top 12 and 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 that. It's really cool for us to get bumped out and then come back and sit on the pole.
2014 has been an uphill battle for McMurray so far. He has just one top-five finish to his name in 15 races on the Sprint Cup circuit. Heading into Sunday's race, he sits 21st in the Chase standings, 25 points behind Greg Biffle in 16th.
Winning the pole can put a driver in solid position for this race. According to NASCAR.com, five drivers in 25 races at Sonoma have won from the pole. Sunday might be the perfect time for McMurray to kick-start his '14 campaign.
Road courses are extremely tricky for drivers, but McMurray believes that it isn't as tough as it was in years past, per Claire B. Lang of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio:
You can see the top 12 qualifiers below. Full results are available at NASCAR.com.
|Toyota/Save Mart 350 Qualifying|
|Pos.||Driver||Best Speed||Best Time||Behind|
Saturday was a good day in general for drivers still looking for their first win this season.
AJ Allmendinger occupies the place directly behind McMurray in the standings. He needs to make up 27 points in order to track down Biffle.
Or Allmendinger could just win. One victory would immediately propel him into the final Chase and may be enough to keep him there for good.
The No. 47 car was one of the most consistent throughout all of the qualifying rounds. Before McMurray set the benchmark, Allmendinger bested Marcos Ambrose's previous record for the fastest qualifying lap:
As things stand now, Kyle Larson qualifies for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. His 454 points are good enough for 12th in the standings. Without a victory to his name, though, Larson will eventually slip out of contention sooner or later.
The No. 42 car is in a good position heading into Sunday, qualifying third behind McMurray and Allmendinger. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to Twitter to praise McMurray, Larson and Team Ganassi as a whole:
Larson has yet to run at Sonoma in his brief Sprint Cup career, so it's really anybody's guess as to how he'll perform. In 2014, he has three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He's been very consistent but so far has failed to have that one really great race that will make him a little more secure in the standings.
One checkered flag won't guarantee Larson a spot in the Chase, but that will likely be the minimum qualification.