SONOMA, Calif. — It’s not the first engine issue Ambrose has had at Sonoma: He was dominating the race in 2010 and leading under caution when he turned his engine off and lost the race. So he was furious when an engine problem spoiled what he thought would be a pole-winning run for Sunday’s race.
“I pretty much lost my mind there and was really mad and just had to get my composure back to finish the lap off,” he said. “It was good enough for the front row, so I’m proud of that but disappointed obviously that we didn’t get the pole position.”
Carl Edwards qualified third and was followed by teammate Greg Biffle as Ford drivers took three of the first four spots. Although it was Edwards’ best qualifying effort at Sonoma, he had thought the new format meant he’d get more laps in and have a shot at the pole.
“The qualifying format was supposed to be easier on the drivers because we were supposed to get a couple of laps, but my crew chief went ahead and taped the grille off and said that we’d just get one lap, so I was really happy with the lap,” Edwards said. “I made a couple of little mistakes. I think I could have done better, but, still, it’s the best position I’ve had starting here and to be anywhere near Marcos Ambrose in qualifying at a road race is an honor for me.”
Defending race winner Clint Bowyer qualified fifth and was followed by Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano. Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR had previously used group qualifying only in the Nationwide Series but tried it Saturday instead of traditional single-car runs. The drivers were split into eight groups of five or six cars based on practice speeds from Friday, and NASCAR sent them onto the track five seconds apart.