Kyle Larson drove his No. 42 DC Solar Camaro ZL1 to the top spot in qualifying for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Sonoma Raceway, with a fast lap of 75.732 seconds, 94.597 mph. It was a repeat performance for Larson, who also captured the pole at the 1.99-mile road course in 2017.
This was the sixth MENCS career pole for Larson and it also marked the third pole of the 2018 season for the Camaro ZL1 with Larson earning two of those thus far (Dover, and now Sonoma). He also captured the 697thoverall pole win for Chevrolet in the series, and the brand’s 15th at Sonoma Raceway.
Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) teammate, Jamie McMurray, placed his No. 1 Cessna Camaro ZL1 in the fourth spot to give the team two of the top four starting positions for Sunday’s race.
Hendrick Motorsports had a strong showing in both rounds of qualifying at the 11-turn road course with three teammates in the Top-8 qualifiers. Chase Elliott was third in his No. 9 Napa Auto Parts Camaro ZL1, Jimmie Johnson posted the seventh fastest time in his No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Camaro ZL1, and William Byron was eighth in the No. 24 Liberty University Camaro ZL1,
AJ Allmendinger rounded out the six Chevrolet drivers to qualify in the Top 10 placing his No. 47 Kroger Clicklist Camaro ZL1 in the fifth starting spot.
Rounding out the top five was Martin Truex, Jr. (Toyota), who qualified second.
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 is scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 24 at 3 pm, ET. Live coverage can be found on FoxSports1, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 DC SOLAR CAMARO ZL1 – POLE WINNER
BACK-TO-BACK POLES FOR YOU TALK US THROUGH YOUR LAP OUT THERE:
“Yeah it was a really good second lap there for the final round. I thought I ran a really good lap. I figured I would have ran in the 75-second bracket, I just didn’t know kind of how quickly. So, when I saw the 75.70 pop up on my dash, I knew that would be a good lap, but I didn’t know if it was the pole or not. But, once I knew I was ahead of the No. 78 I figured the No. 47 would probably be the only one that could beat me and I’m not sure where he messed up his lap, but he wasn’t able to get the pole. Cool to do it. We picked up a lot of time from the first round into the second round. The car had a good balance the first round, so I don’t know what they adjusted if anything, but it was good for the second round. I was just able to attack the breaking zones a little bit more, rush the throttle a little bit quicker on the exits and, yeah it paid off. I felt like I ran a fairly smooth lap and happy to get the pole.”
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOOD ON ROAD COURSES?
“I think you can look at like Jeff Gordon, who was obviously really good here, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and all of our backgrounds of racing sprint cars and stuff and then I don’t think you would be that surprised for me being that fast here. There is just something about sprint cars you know I think the way the suspension works and the car moves around a lot more. I think in this, even though it’s not doing the same thing, you can still feel the car a little bit easier and feel the suspension load and tire load and use that to your advantage, I guess a little bit and maybe it just makes us more comfortable. So, even though I know we didn’t grow up doing this stuff, just I think the way the suspension feels is more similar to a sprint car than a Cup car on an oval where we are just stuck solid to the track and you don’t really feel any roll in the car.”
LIKE WHEN YOU ARE GOING THROUGH A CORNER?
“Yeah, like when you exit a corner and you get on the gas and you feel the car kind of rock back that feels similar to dirt stuff. A winged sprint car you go in the corner and you load in and you just fall on the left side or something. You just feel the car a little bit better and you are comfortable I think we the amount of travel that the car has.”
LAST YEAR YOU STARTED ON THE POLE BUT DIDN’T HAVE THE BEST FINISH. DID YOU LEAVE HERE FEELING GOOD ABOUT THIS PLACE? DID YOU LEARN ENOUGH HAVING A FAST CAR LAST YEAR TO BE ABLE TO WIN TOMORROW?
“I mean, no I guess because we were really fast in qualifying last year obviously with the pole and then man we were terrible in the race. I don’t really know what to expect for tomorrow, but I feel like the balance of our car yesterday in practice was a lot better than what it was in the race last year. In the race last year, I couldn’t even turn. I would be off the gas, turn the wheel and I would just drive straight off the track. I had no grip. Where I felt like in practice yesterday our car actually had a better balance on it. It was more similar between each corner around this place where last year I didn’t really have much of a balance in race trim. I don’t think we have winning speed tomorrow, but neither did Tony Stewart the year that he won and I’m sure there are other years where people won that didn’t have winning speed but were able to get the job done. I think as long as we can keep ourselves in position tomorrow, catch some breaks, I think we will have a good shot.”
HOW DO YOU THINK THE COOLER WEATHER WILL AFFECT THE RACING TOMORROW AND YOUR CHANCES SPECIFICALLY?
“Yeah, I don’t know this place eats up tires. I don’t really feel like the temperature… you are going to have a handful regardless whether it’s 40 degrees or 100 degrees. I was surprised today isn’t very hot at all. I think all week you kind of look at the weather forecast and I thought it was going to be scorching hot, but it feels great outside. I think for… you know I’m from California, but I’ve spent enough time in the south that 100 degrees here is not a big deal. 80 degrees there is a lot hotter than 100 degrees here. I think a race out here in the dry weather is good for us. Temperature doesn’t ever really bother me.”
JEFF GORDON RECENTLY COMPARED YOU TO CALE YARBOROUGH WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
“Yeah, I mean that is really cool to have Jeff Gordon compare me to him. I mean I’ve honestly never seen any races of Cale’s. I don’t really know how my driving style or whatever is similar to his or what not. Anytime you can get compared to anybody who is a legend or in the Hall of Fame or whatever it is special and it means a lot to me. So, I’m thankful anytime I get compared to anybody who is good.”
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST ROUND OF QUALIFYING AND THE TRACK CONDITIONS WITH THE SPEEDY DRY?
“Yeah, I think we were all, or at least I was a little concerned with all the speedy dry over there. Even if it doesn’t affect the grip it is still in your head and you can see it and it affects you. I wouldn’t say I tip-toed through there, but I was a little more cautious the first round through all the speedy dry and through the esses and stuff. But then, once you get through there after the first round it seems fine. You can kind of just forget about it the second round and I think that is what I did.”
Team CHEVY PR/Photo Credit Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images