Ambrose gets consecutive top qualifying spot
On Friday at Sonoma, Marcos Ambrose ran less than half his fast as he had last Saturday at Michigan -- but the result was the same.
Touring the 1.99-mile road course in 75.203 seconds (95.262 mph), Ambrose won the pole for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, his second Coors Light pole award in as many weekends and the second of his career. Ambrose withstood a determined challenge from Jeff Gordon (95.067 mph), who, as the last driver to make a qualifying attempt, came up just short.
Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, qualified third for the 16th NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at 94.795 mph. Greg Biffle (94.722 mph) was fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (94.686 mph).
Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, last year's winner Kurt Busch, series leader Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman will start from positions six through 10, respectively. Dale Earnhardt Jr., last week's winner at Michigan and second in points, qualified 19th.
Ambrose won the pole at Michigan last week at 203.241 mph on a lightning-fast, repaved two-mile oval.
"I think Kentucky next week is going to be about 175 miles per hour, so I'll be gunning for that as well," Ambrose quipped. "I'm just really thrilled today. We put a lot of effort into this race. ... We brought a brand new hot rod for this race -- better than the one we had here last year -- and I'm just thrilled that we can convert.
"It's only one lap. We've got to do a lot more on Sunday, but at least we can go home and say we had the fastest car. It was a good lap. I was more nervous, I think, running (95) miles an hour than I was running 200."
Gordon was ahead of Ambrose's pace until he reached the last two corners.
"There are always places you can gain, and it's risk versus reward," Gordon said. "There are some places where you can lose, too. I felt like I was aggressive in areas where the car was comfortable in practice, and it was giving me signs and feedback that it had good grip.
"I knew it was a better lap than what we had in practice, but I felt like there were some areas where I left a little bit. If you had to do it all over again, I'd love to take these segments and try to do them again, (but) all in all, I'm very happy."
Brian Simo failed to make the 43-car field.