NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying - Toyota/Save Mart 350
Negotiating the right- and left-hand turns at Infineon Raceway like a veteran road-course racer, Joey Logano won the pole for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
"I never looked at myself as a road-course racer," said Logano, who added that he found speed in his car after some post-practice adjustments improved the handling substantially.
The Coors Light Pole Award was the second for Logano, who posted a lap at 93.256 miles per hour and watched as the 12 drivers who followed him in Friday's time trials failed to run faster. Jamie McMurray (93.223 mph) qualified second, and Paul Menard (93.176 mph) claimed the third starting position for Sunday's race, the 16th of the season in the Cup series.
Winning the pole was a welcome change for Logano, who has but one top-five finish this season and is 23rd in the Cup standings.
Those who might have expected road-course aces Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya to top the qualifying speed chart got a surprise. Ambrose posted the eighth fastest time, and Montoya was 17th.
Denny Hamlin qualified fourth, followed by Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Ambrose.
"This is the last place that I figured we'd get a pole," Logano said. "After practice, I felt like we needed a lot more forward drive, a lot more side bite in the car, and they (the crew) made it happen.
"I was surprised. I felt like my lap was OK. I didn't feel like it was stellar—by no means. And it held up. We were watching the last three cars out—Kasey, who got the pole last year; Denny, our (Joe Gibbs Racing) teammate, who's really good here; and Kurt (Busch), who was (nearly) four tenths (of a second) faster than everyone in practice and has gotten the last three poles. …
"I didn't really think it was going to hold up, and I don't think any of my guys thought it was going to hold up, but we're really pumped up right now. We needed a good momentum change for our Home Depot team right now. We've been going through a little bit of a drought, and this is definitely going to help us a lot."
With qualifying order set by practice speeds, from slowest to fastest, Busch, trying to win his fourth straight Cup pole, was the last of the 44 cars to make an attempt.
"We were fastest in practice but just couldn't put down the qualifying lap that we needed," said Busch, who will start 11th Sunday. "We missed it in Turns 4 and 7 and were just slow in 10. When you add all that up, you just can't give away that much time on this track."
After a disappointing practice and a 23rd-place qualifying effort, Cup points leader Carl Edwards withdrew from Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., to concentrate on practicing his Cup car.
The defending winner at Road America, Edwards would have missed both Cup practices on Saturday had he flown to Wisconsin for the Nationwide race.
Road-course specialist Tony Ave, subbing for Travis Kvapil in the No. 38 Ford, failed to qualify for the 43-car field.