SONOMA, Calif. — Marcos Ambrose had never won a Sprint Cup Series pole before last week.
Now he has two in a row.
Ambrose won the top starting spot Friday for Sunday’s race at Sonoma with a fast lap around the 1.99-mile road course. He knocked off five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, then waited to see if Jeff Gordon could beat him.
“I don’t know if I got it all, but I got a lot of it,” Ambrose said after his lap, which averaged 95.262 mph.
Gordon, the career leader on road courses with nine victories, was the last driver to attempt to qualify.
He ran an aggressive lap around the 10-turn course, and just missed the pole with an average speed of 95.067 mph.
Gordon will start second.
“I thought it was a really good lap,” Gordon said. “Hey, you’ve got to credit where credit is due: Marcos laid down a heck of a lap and we came up just a little bit short. We knew that was going to be a tough lap to beat.”
Ambrose, who excels at road course racing but is showing rapid improvement on ovals and picked up his first pole in 134 races last week at Michigan, said his Richard Petty Motorsports had his Ford ready for Sonoma.
“We put a lot of effort into this road course program,” said Ambrose, who raced to his lone Cup victory last year on the road course at Watkins Glen. “I’m thrilled for my team and it takes a whole team to qualify on pole two weeks in a row.”
Johnson ended up third, putting the Hendrick Motorsports teammates second and third on the starting grid, but said he’s got a lot of work to do on his Chevrolet.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ended his four-year losing streak with last week’s win at Michigan, qualified 19th.
INDYCAR: Dario Franchitti won the third of the first three qualifying heat races in the history of the current IndyCar series to take the pole for the Iowa Corn Indy 250.
Franchitti, the Indianapolis 500 winner, has two victories in four starts on Iowa’s short oval.
Helio Castroneves will start on the front row with Franchitti, followed by 2011 winner Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Briscoe.