Kyle Larson stormed to the Busch Light Pole Award in Saturday’s qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway.
Larson’s lap at 92.111 mph topped the charts ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, meaning the dynamic duo will start Sunday’s race (4 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) exactly how they finished the 2021 event in northern California. Elliott’s lap time was just 0.02 seconds shy of Larson’s.
Larson, the defending series champion, will lead the field to the green flag at Sonoma for the fifth consecutive time, a streak dating back to 2017 that skips the 2020 hiatus. Four of the five pole awards came courtesy of qualifying, establishing the track record. His 2021 pole was awarded via metrics without on-track practice or qualifying.
“It was good, and I was a bit surprised, because I felt like I gave up a lot of time in Turns 4 and 7, so had I had those two corners back, I felt like I could have went quite a bit faster,” said the Elk Grove, California, native. “Thanks to everyone on our team. Excited about it.”
Chris Buescher, who returns to the No. 17 Ford after missing last week’s race due to COVID protocols, posted the third-fastest lap Saturday ahead of Michael McDowell and Tyler Reddick, who completed the top five for Sunday’s starting lineup. Cole Custer, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suárez, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.
AJ Allmendinger was sixth fastest in Group A’s session, falling just 0.018 seconds short of Buescher, who held the final transfer position in Saturday’s opening round.
Larson is the only driver among the top-10 with a previous win at the track.
Three-time Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr., the winningest active driver at the track, will roll off 28th in the No 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. His former championship-winning crew chief, Cole Pearn is working as an engineer this week for the No. 19 team.
His teammate, the only other active multi-time winner at Sonoma, two-time winner Kyle Busch just missed advancing to the final round of qualifying. He will start the No. 18 JGR Toyota in 11th place, right alongside his older brother Kurt Busch in the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota. Kurt is a former winner at Sonoma as well.
Renowned sports car racer Joey Hand qualified the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford in 17th in his second NASCAR Cup Series start of the season. Todd Gilliland was the fastest rookie and will start the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, 24th.
NASCAR Wire Service’s Holly Cain contributed to this report.
Allmendinger, Larson lead practice at Sonoma
AJ Allmendinger and Kyle Larson posted the quickest laps in their respective practice groups on Saturday afternoon.
While Allmendinger’s lap at 89.898 mph was fastest in Group A, six drivers from Group B posted faster laps than him. Larson’s lap at 90.42 mph reigned supreme over Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch and Daniel Suárez.
Joining Allmendinger at the top of the charts in Group A was Chris Buescher, followed by Kevin Harvick, William Byron and Bubba Wallace.
The drivers atop the charts shouldn’t come as a surprise. Larson’s Sonoma win in 2021 was one of three road-course victories for him a season ago, and Allmendinger took the checkered flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last August to accompany his 2014 Watkins Glen triumph. Seven of Elliott’s 14 career victories have come on road courses, but none of those were at Sonoma. Chastain won this year’s only road-course race so far at Circuit of The Americas.
The only notable off-road excursion in Saturday’s practice sessions came courtesy of Chase Briscoe, who found himself in the Turn 2 grass after a bobble on corner entry. The No. 14 Ford left a cloud of dust behind him but continued without issue.