Carl Edwards edged AJ Allmendinger to earn the stop starting spot Sunday on the road course race at Sonoma Raceway.
Edwards ran a lap at 95.777 mph around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile track in qualifying Saturday to put his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the top starting spot for the third time this season.
“Man this car is fast,” said Edwards, the winner at Sonoma in 2014.
AJ Allmendinger qualified second with a lap at 95.676 mph in his JTG Daugherty Chevrolet. Allmendinger was last year’s pole winner and believed he had a shot at it again on Saturday.
“When I saw Carl’s first lap, I was like, I don’t care what kind of lap I run, I’m never going to catch that,” Allmendinger said. “There’s no pressure on me. He’s won here before. We just have to go out and have a solid day.”
Despite being one of the best road course racers in NASCAR, Allmendinger has just one victory — two years ago at Watkins Glen. A win Sunday would give him a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Edwards thought he “narrowly got the pole” over Allmendinger, and doesn’t consider himself the sure favorite Sunday.
“I think every guy that is starting this race, every guy and girl, is looking at themselves as a favorite,” he said. “This place is so tough and it’s been so tough for me that a win would be spectacular. I really think it’s going to be a tough race. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be difficult.”
Martin Truex Jr. qualified third in a Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, while Kurt Busch was fourth for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Larson completed the top five, as Chevy drivers took three of the top five spots.
Denny Hamlin qualified sixth and was followed by Joey Logano, the highest-qualifying Ford driver, defending race winner Kyle Busch and Paul Menard. Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 12.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fastest in Friday’s practice, but none of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers advanced into the second round of qualifying. Earnhardt will start 13th, Jimmie Johnson 15th, Chase Elliott 16th and Kasey Kahne 19th.