Auto racing: Chip Ganassi drivers sweep front row at Sonoma for NASCAR Cup race

Driver Kyle Larson negotiates a curve at Sonoma Raceway during NASCAR Cup qualifying on Saturday.
(Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

Chip Ganassi likes winners, and his drivers have him in prime position to celebrate another Monster Energy NASCAR Cup victory this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray swept the front row in Saturday qualifying to give Chip Ganassi Racing a 1-2 start on the wine country road course.

Larson turned a lap at 95.295 mph Saturday and just nipped his teammate, who ran his qualifying lap at 95.204 in the Ganassi Chevrolet. McMurray is seeking his first win of the season.

Larson is coming off a NASCAR Cup win last week at Michigan — where he also started from the pole — and is looking to make it two consecutive wins. In fact, Larson is on an incredible hot streak and, including his sprint car races, has four total wins in the last two weeks.


“The whole lap actually felt pretty bad,” he said. “I felt like I gave up enough there that I wouldn’t have a shot at the pole. So, I was surprised and I was happy about that. Jamie is always really good when we come to road courses. Especially when it comes to qualifying here at Sonoma. It was a big deal there to beat Jamie there in qualifying.

“Hopefully, we can be one-two in the race as well.”

Larson planned to be a spectator Saturday night at Calistoga Speedway, where best friend Rico Abreu was hosing a charity sprint car race that featured Abreu, Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. As much as he wished he could get out and play with his friends in the dirt, the focus is Sunday for the Monster Energy Series points leader.

“This is cool to get a pole on a road course at my home state. This is my closest track to Sacramento, or Elk Grove, where I grew up. I have lots of friends and family here, we’re going to celebrate with the team, and then we’re going to head out to Calistoga and go watch some Sprint Car racing. So, I’m excited about that.”


Martin Truex Jr., the most consistent driver this season, qualified third in a Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, and Kyle Busch was fourth in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

AJ Allmendinger was fifth for JTG Daugherty Racing, and Danica Patrick was sixth for Stewart-Haas Racing in her best qualifying run of the season. She was also the highest qualifying Ford.

It was Patrick’s best qualifying effort since she was fourth at Charlotte in 2014, and the third best qualifying effort of her Cup career. She made seven previous starts at Sonoma in IndyCar, and Sunday will be her fifth start in Cup.

Ryan Blaney was seventh and followed by Chase Elliott, who is in a backup car following a Friday wreck. Chris Buescher was ninth and the rest of the final round of qualifying was rounded out by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez — a rookie driving the car that Carl Edwards won the pole in last year — and Kevin Harvick.

Penske drivers dominate IndyCar qualifying

Team Penske will have a stranglehold on the first two rows of the IndyCar race at Road America.

Helio Castroneves won the pole at qualifying by turning in a lap time of 1:41.30. It was his 50th career pole, and third of the season.

Castroneves beat out teammate Will Power by .06 seconds to take the pole. Power won last year’s race at the rural Wisconsin road course.


Two more Penske drivers will start in the second row after Josef Newgarden finished third and Simon Pagenaud came in fourth. Penske drivers have also turned in the fast practice times all weekend.

Points leader Scott Dixon will start fifth, with Graham Rahal starting sixth.

All six of the top drivers are separated by 49 points atop the crowded season leaderboard.

Mercedes goes 1-2 at F1 qualifying

Lewis Hamilton took a brilliant pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Valtteri Bottas on Saturday, with Mercedes securing a convincing 1-2 as rival Ferrari lagged behind.

Bottas led qualifying and then set an even quicker time on his final lap — only for Hamilton to beat him by nearly half a second.

The British driver’s 66th pole moves him one ahead of F1 great Ayrton Senna and just two behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68.

Raikkonen qualified third ahead of his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader.


After three difficult practice sessions, qualifying also proved tough. With three minutes remaining a red flag came up, halting the session, after Daniel Ricciardo clipped the wall with the left side of his Red Bull coming out of Turn 6 — prompting an expletive from the Australian driver.