SONOMA, CA – Jamie McMurray took advantage of the new qualifying format at Sonoma Raceway to put his No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet SS on the pole with a fast speed of 94.986 mph for Sunday’s Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It was McMurray’s ninth Cup career pole, and the first of the 2013 season. He was also the pole winner at Sonoma in 2007.
The new qualifying format for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, used previously in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, featured eight groups of five or six cars each; and the drivers had five minutes to post their best lap around the 1.99-mile road course. McMurray was in the eighth group.
“It was all-around really good and our car has been good,” said McMurray. “Speed for this team really hasn’t been an issue. We’ve had plenty of speed; it’s just been about the last ten percent of the races and getting that finish. But hopefully we can get our bad luck out of the way and have a really good result this weekend. The truth is, I don’t really care if I lead the first lap tomorrow. I want to be there at the end. And this race, a lot of times comes down to the last restart and not getting in trouble. So, we’ll just dig and fight all day and I think our car will have enough speed. It will just be about not making any mistakes.”
Starting behind McMurray on Sunday will be six Team Chevy drivers in the Top-15 positions of the 43-car field. Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Sealy Chevrolet SS – 7th, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS – 10th, Tony Stewart, No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS – 11th, Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Rheem Chevy SS – 12th, Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS – 13th, and Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy SS will start 15th.
Rounding out the top five starters, Marcos Ambrose (Ford) qualified second; Carl Edwards (Ford) qualified third, Greg Biffle (Ford) will start fourth, and Clint Bowyer (Toyota) qualified fifth.
The Save-Mart 350 will take the green flag on Sunday, June 23rd at 3:00 p.m. ET (12:00 noon, PT) and will be aired live on TNT.
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER
CONGRATULATIONS YOU GET TO START UP FRONT ARE YOU SURPRISED? “A little bit. We were second and fifth in practice so consistently we have had a really good car this weekend. The No. 42 has been really good all weekend. So you know you have a chance, but the deal is Juan (Pablo Montoya) and Marcos (Ambrose) are able to pull these crazy laps out when they need to. We were just able to put it all together today. That is really cool. This is a really fun event. The race is really fun, it’s just that this place can get a little bit frustrating at the end of the race if they have a late-race restart. It’s always wild in turn four and turn seven. I have been on the good end of it and I’ve been on the bad end of it. Hopefully, we just put it all together tomorrow.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING/SEALY CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED SEVENTH
ON HIS LAP: “We’ll take it, seventh is a good starting spot,” said Busch. “We had a good weekend so far with two strong practice sessions yesterday in our Furniture Row Chevrolet. We need to go out there tomorrow, have some fun, avoid trouble, stay clean and get the finish our performance deserves. Fuel mileage will be critical as it always is here.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 10TH
ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “I think that track conditions are fairly similar to yesterday. It is getting a little bit warmer, but when we made our qualifying run it was in the afternoon yesterday so it might have been similar. All in all a good run for the Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. On a road course there is always places where you can gain time and lose time. I feel like the lap overall was a good lap except for turn 11. I just got in there and got real tight. That costs us a little bit of time, but hopefully we end up 10th, 11th, or something like that.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR PACKAGE FOR SUNDAY? “We have raced really well here in the past. I’m certainly optimistic and looking forward to the challenges. This car is a little bit different than what we had. Trying to figure out what this car needs balance wise for the race is still going to be determined throughout the race tomorrow.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/BASS PRO SHOPS CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 11TH
ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “We’re definitely getting better. We’ve made gains each time we’ve been on the racetrack. And compared to where we’ve started in years past, we’re actually ahead of the game this year. Steve (Addington, crew chief) and the guys have worked really hard — here and at the shop — to bring a Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy that’ll we’ll be able to work with on Sunday.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 RHEEM CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 12TH
ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP: “It was a decent lap. I definitely left a couple of tenths out on the race track in a few corners, but all in all our goal was to run faster than what we did in practice. We were able to pick up half a second and wound up with a decent lap. We just didn’t want to dig ourselves a hole. Driver definitely left some out there. The car is running good.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 15TH
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? “It felt pretty good, especially on that first lap. I was just a little bit tight. But it felt all right. We had a little pick-up from yesterday, so that was good. I think we’re going to have a better car in race trim Sunday than what it’s shown so far this weekend. We made some good progress yesterday and I’m looking forward to the race. I don’t know. Hopefully the longer it runs, the better we are.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/MOEN CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 16TH
ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “We made some gains from yesterday’s practice sessions. We fought a loose-off condition, but we’ve improved on it. We just need to take it another step further. We’ve tried a lot of different setups on our Moen/Menards Chevrolet, but we still have some tricks up our sleeve for tomorrow.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 19TH
ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “This is not going to be the pole. It’s just nice to get this interview right now and talk about my Lowe’s Chevrolet. But we’ll do what we can to manage what we can and try to find some more speed in this Lowe’s Chevy.”
WAS THAT ABOUT AS PERFECT A LAP AS YOU CAN EXPECT? “Looking at the speed we are not in the 15’s yet and I think the pole is going to be the mid to low 15’s. I think we are missing a big chunk of pace there. We out ran everybody that went out ahead of us, which we should. We will just see where we stack up. I don’t think it’s going to be… we will be lucky if it’s top-10. I think there are some real fast laps getting ready to come down out there.”
HOW ABOUT THE CAR IN RACE TRIM? “We are fair. We don’t have a ton of pace for whatever reason. I think all four of us in the Hendrick cars are wanting a little bit more. We picked a good direction to go here with our race car for qualifying. I think we will be able to build on that and take it into tomorrow’s race. We are not off to the start we wanted here in Sonoma, but there is still an evening to think things through and get ready for a race.”
JACQUES VILLENEUVE, NO. 51 TAG HEUER AVANT-GARDE EYEWEAR CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 22ND
ON HIS LAP: “It just wasn’t quick enough. It was a lot better than yesterday. We improved the car overnight and I was discovering it and I just didn’t drive aggressive enough on the first lap so there was still a little bit of time, but at least my car was a lot better today. They worked hard. I was discovering everything yesterday and so far, it’s been run.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE FASTER FOR SUNDAY? “Well, tomorrow is a whole different ballgame because it’s race trim and we have to have the car survive for a lot of laps and we don’t know. We have to talk about it.”
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE COMMENTS THAT DRIVERS DON’T WANT YOU BEHIND THEM BECAUSE YOU ARE SO AGGRESSIVE? “Well, that’s a good thing because then maybe people would open the door. Their outlook on me is a little bit biased. I’m not as aggressive as they think. So I think it’s just an image that has happened and was built and it got out of control and I’m not sure why.”
SO YOU’RE NOT LOOKING TO DRIVE THAT WAY? “No, no. If you can fight for the win, you drive more aggressively; mostly if you get taken off during that race then you have to make your way back through the field and that’s what happened in the last couple of years. I got taken out from the lead on the last lap and everybody thought that was great. So, I didn’t drive any more aggressively than anybody else out there but the image I got out of it was quite extreme.”
DID YOU SEE THE CRASH AT LE MANS TODAY? “No, I just saw the sad news when I got here at the track and I wasn’t following it. Racing is still dangerous and I think people tend to forget about it. Mostly the younger drivers, the new generation that come into racing, they don’t realize that it’s still dangerous. And it is. But we don’t expect it. I think that all those races where you change drivers during the race; you don’t have a proper seat. You’re not sitting properly in the belts and it makes it that little bit more dangerous.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 26TH
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT? “This is the way they should have done it for years. It’s a lot easier to get everything done and get everything accomplished and it gives us a little bit more exciting session to watch. So, I’m all for it.”
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? DID YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS? “Oh, just that the car is a little bit on the tight side, but we had great speed. We’ll just have to try to take care of our car and do the best we can in the race. We should be okay if we can just do everything right.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION 30TH ANNIVERSARY CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 30TH
ON THE NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT: “The format didn’t change anything for us. You used to get an opportunity to get a second lap, which worked sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. So everybody’s got an equal shot to make the best of it.”
HOW IS YOUR CAR? “It’s always been loose. We rarely have it tight here. The tire is a challenge, but everybody’s got the same challenge and we’ll keep working on it.”
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 31ST
ON HER QUALIFYING RUN: “We picked up from practice. It was loose, especially in the faster part of the course. But we improved from yesterday and the GoDaddy guys have worked really hard this weekend. Hopefully we have a good day on Sunday.”
-Team Chevy PR