By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
SONOMA, Calif. – Carl Edwards ran a lightning-fast lap in the first round of Saturday’s knockout qualifying at Sonoma Raceway—and it worried him.
“After that first lap—I have to be honest—I sat here and thought, ‘Man, I’m really going to screw this up on the second one,’ ‘cause the first one was really good, but it held on for the pole, and so I’m really excited.”
Edwards toured the 1.99-mile road course in 1 minute, 14.392 seconds (96.301 mph) in the first round and was the only driver to crack 96 mph either in Friday’s practice or Saturday’s time trials.
But he need not have worried about the second round. In Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET on FS1), Edwards’ No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will lead the field to the green flag.
On the lap that counted, as tires fell off and the track got marginally warmer, Edwards secured his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Sonoma and the 19th of his career with a run at 95.777 mph (1:14.799).
AJ Allmendinger was a close second at 95.676 mph (1:14.878). The road course ace put his No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Chevrolet on the front row at Sonoma for the third straight year, having started second in 2014 and from the pole last season.
“It was a struggle yesterday,” Allmendinger said of Friday’s practice. “We just never could really find the direction of the car. All my guys did a great job to get to work, to get this car closer to the front.
“When I saw Carl’s first lap, I said, ‘I don’t care what kind of lap I run—if he runs that again I’m not going to get close.’ Then, after I saw it was less than a tenth (of a second), you sort of nit-pick, but it’s definitely a big gain from where we were yesterday.”
Martin Truex Jr. (95.672 mph) qualified third, followed by Kurt Busch (95.654 mph) and Kyle Larson (95.362 mph). Seventh-place qualifier Joey Logano (95.276 mph) had the fastest Ford.
“That’s better than where we were last year,” said Logano, the Sprint Cup Series’ most recent winner (Michigan). “We were (19th) last year, so we’ve improved. I thought I had a shot after the first round but lost some grip the second round and tried harder at the same time, and all of that just didn’t work out.
“It’s unfortunate that we lost a little bit from the first round to the second round (three positions), but we’re still in good shape. I still think we have a top-five car, and we proved that today in qualifying.”
None of the four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets advanced to the second round. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who led Friday’s second practice, will start 13th, with Jimmie Johnson 15th, Chase Elliott 16th and Kasey Kahne 19th.
Danica Patrick qualified 11th, her best starting spot since last year’s Chase race at Texas. Cody Ware failed to make the 40-car field.