Kahne beats out Johnson for pole in Sonoma

Kasey Kahne is ready to defend his 2009 race victory at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The Richard Petty Racing driver is one of the multiple winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to notch a victory on a road course and today, Kahne placed his Ford on the pole with a 1:16.300 for a speed of 93.893 miles per hour on the 1.99 mile circuit.

Kasey Kahne, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

"It was a good run," said Kahne who admitted that he was not "as aggressive as I could be - sliding the car a little bit - but was really comfortable and under control, and then when I got back to 11 I lifted a little early and didn't run through that corner as hard as I probably should have and probably gave up a couple tenths to Jimmie, so I was happy with the run. I'm glad we still got the pole, but I need to keep working on some corners out there, for sure."

Second fastest in the Sonoma Valley area was defending champion Jimmie Johnson. Racing his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a time of 1:16.368 (93.809 mph). The Californian was not pleased with his practice outcome but explained that the team made "some small adjustments to the car we went out and nailed a good lap and came in 2nd."

The second row consists of a Dodge and a Chevy. Toyota's best was the Australian who has been one of their road course aces.

Penske Racing's Kurt Busch is hot thus far in the championship chase and today laid done a 1:16.556 (93.579 mph) to snag third on the grid. "It was a great qualifying lap for our Miller Lite Dodge. We were slipping around too much earlier today and couldn't get the car underneath me.

"The Miller Lite guys made some great adjustments between practice and qualifying which really helped the car with forward bite," added Busch. "I didn't think that we were pole material, we were just shooting for a top-10 starting spot and nailed it."

Kevin Harvick is ready for the Wine Country race and placed his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet fourth with his best at 1:16.665 (93.446 mph).

Johnson's teammate, but also a main rival, Jeff Gordon was fifth with a time of 1:16.690 (93.415 mph). It was Marco Ambrose who gave Toyota a top six with his lap time of 1:16.809 (93.270 mph).

The field is set at 43 with a few road course experts brought in for event and will campaign in Cup car for the first time. Boris Said was the non-surprise as the fastest of the group, he will start 17th. Jan Magnussen qualified, as did P.J. Jones. Truly the surprise of the day was the DTM racer who came to play. Mattias Ekstrom qualified and will start on the grid in 38th position.

The German Touring series two-time champion, Ekstrom, is in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota and after his first experience, he said, "We made some good progress from the practice and then I made a few rookie mistakes. I lifted a little early on the start-finish because I wasn't sure where they were going to wave me off so there was some confusion. We made good progress and I think we'll be good for the race."

Some of the NSCS racers already have a background as a road course specialist including Juan Pablo Montoya, Max Papis, Scott Speed, and A.J. Allmendinger.

Missing in action were Scott Pruett and Ron Fellows. The two have ran with NASCAR over the years at the Sonoma circuit near Sears Point. Pruett is at Mid-Ohio for the Grand-Am Rolex Series and Fellows is with NASCAR but at Road America for the Nationwide series deubt on the road course.