McMurray on pole for Sonoma

Sonoma, CA (Sports Network) - Jamie McMurray won the pole for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 after topping Marcos Ambrose in the Sprint Cup Series' new qualifying format at Sonoma Raceway.

McMurray posted a lap at 94.986 mph during Saturday's qualifying at this 1.99- mile road course in Northern California for his ninth career Sprint Cup pole but his first since March 2011 at Martinsville (81 races ago). He also won the pole at Sonoma in 2007.

For the first time in the history of NASCAR's premier series, a group-based format was used in qualifying. The series will use this format for its two road-course races of the season (Sonoma and Watkins Glen, N.Y.). Teams qualified in groups instead of the traditional single-car runs used for the oval tracks.

McMurray and Ambrose were among the five drivers who ran in group 8. The top- five finishers in Friday's practice at Sonoma made up the final group.

Ambrose, who excels in road-course racing, claimed the outside pole after he turned a lap at 94.924 mph. Ambrose experienced an engine issue before he took the green flag to start his first qualifying lap.

Carl Edwards had his best qualifying run at Sonoma with a third-place finish, while his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle, who won last weekend's race at Michigan, took the fourth spot. Edwards was among those in group 5.

Clint Bowyer, the defending race winner, qualified fifth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano. Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, who has the most wins at Sonoma with five, completed the top-10.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson will start 19th, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will roll off 26th. Danica Patrick will start 31st. Patrick is the first female driver to compete in a Cup race at Sonoma.

Jacques Villeneuve, Boris Said and Ron Fellows are among those road-racing specialists competing in this race. Villeneuve qualified 22nd, Said 24th and Fellows 25th.

Victor Gonzalez Jr., who is making his debut in the series, will start from the rear of the field after he crashed in qualifying. Gonzalez ran off course in turn 10 and hit the tire barrier.

All 43 drivers who participated in qualifying made the starting field for Sunday's 110-lap race at Sonoma, which is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. ET.


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