Winning poles at Sonoma Raceway is nothing new for Kyle Larson, who proved that definitively on Saturday, powering his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to his third straight top starting spot at the 2.52-mile road course, which features the addition of the carousel this year.
What has been far less predictable is Larson’s finishing position in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, a statistic Larson hopes to rectify on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Larson has finished 26th and 14th in his last two outings at Sonoma and has never run better than 12th in five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track.
“I guess the trend with my three poles is winning a pole and then struggling in the race,” said the 26-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., who claimed his first Busch Pole Award of the season and the eighth of his career and tied Ricky Rudd for most consecutive poles at the track. “Hopefully, we’ll have something different for tomorrow. I feel good.”
“We did a mock (qualifying) run yesterday in practice and ran a good lap. I kind of over-drove the first session and then the next session I said, ‘I’m going to calm down and not make any mistakes, and I probably under-drove just a little. In the carousel, I think I gave up a little speed, but I feel like I made up some time in other areas, too. It’s cool to get a third pole in a row here at my home track.”
Larson toured the 12-turn circuit in 94.784 seconds (95.712 mph), edging fellow Chevrolet driver William Byron (95.669 mph) by .043 seconds. Joey Logano qualified third at 95.618 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
“I feel like my lap was pretty good,” said Logano, who was .094 seconds off the pole speed. “I was just a little loose. I feel like I got through it mainly pretty decent. I got a little loose off of (Turn) 10. If I could find one spot, I got too loose off 10 trying to throttle up too aggressively and stuck half my left sides up in the dirt and got loose and knocked a few mile an hour off on the exit, compared to what I would have been.
“Maybe that’s a tenth (of a second), maybe a half a tenth. I don't know. I have to go back and look. All I needed was nine-hundredths, so that’s probably the spot I’m looking at.”
Chase Elliott qualified fourth ahead of Daniel Suarez. Sixth-place Denny Hamlin had the fastest Toyota, edging Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., the defending race winner. Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman also advanced to the second round of time trials and will start ninth through 12th, respectively.