Kasey Kahne claimed his first pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway.
The Richard Petty Motorsports racer, who won at this track a year ago, bumped reigning champion Jimmie Johnson from pole by 68 thousandths of a second, setting a lap time of 1m16.300sec.
For the past five seasons there had been a different polesitter at Sonoma, but Kahne's pole broke that run as this is his second in three years at the 1.99-mile track.
"It was a good run," said Kahne, who is driving the same chassis this weekend that he took to Victory Lane a year ago. "Coming to the green I felt like I overshot [Turn] 11 a little bit, so when I got back there, I ran the whole lap and wasn't as aggressive as I could be – sliding the car a little bit – but was really comfortable and under control.
"Then when I got back to [Turn] 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 of tenths to Jimmie... I'm glad we still got the pole, but I need to keep working on some corners out there, for sure."
The front row of the grid for Sunday's race will be exactly the same as two years ago, with Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet starting beside Kahne's Ford, the champion hoping to get his first road course victory in the Sprint Cup series.
Penske's Kurt Busch will start third beside Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick, while five-time event winner Jeff Gordon, who was on provisional pole for a while, rounded out the top five.
Australian Marcos Ambrose had been fastest in practice and looked favorite to claim pole, but an early draw and a mistake entering the final hairpin before the checkered flag, prevented him from backing up his practice pace, ending up sixth although fastest among the Toyotas.
"My right foot got caught between the brake and the throttle and I couldn't make the turn," said Ambrose. "I'm kicking myself. We had a great car and wanted to get the pole with that lap, but at least we're in the front half of the field and we're going to rock and roll on Sunday."
Despite working only on race trim during practice, Tony Stewart was seventh ahead of an impressive Bobby Labonte, while Greg Biffle and Martin Truex completed the top 10. 2007 event winner Juan Pablo Montoya placed his Earnhardt Ganassi Chevy 14th on the grid, his best qualifying effort in four starts at the track.
Road course specialist Boris Said was the best of the non-guaranteed starters in 17th, while Dane Jan Magnussen placed his Phoenix Racing Chevy 32nd on the grid for his Sprint Cup debut, ahead of the Red Bull Toyota of Mattias Ekstrom, who will see the green flag wave from the 19th row of the grid.
Brandon Ash, Brian Simo and Michael Waltrip failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Car Time Gap
1. Kasey Kahne Ford 1m16.300s
2. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 1m16.368s + 0.068s
3. Kurt Busch Dodge 1m16.556s + 0.256s
4. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 1m16.665s + 0.365s
5. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 1m16.690s + 0.390s
6. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 1m16.809s + 0.509s
7. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 1m16.814s + 0.514s
8. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 1m16.821s + 0.521s
9. Greg Biffle Ford 1m16.840s + 0.540s
10. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 1m16.871s + 0.571s
11. Mark Martin Chevrolet 1m16.890s + 0.590s
12. Denny Hamlin Toyota 1m16.895s + 0.595s
13. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 1m16.903s + 0.603s
14. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 1m16.913s + 0.613s
15. AJ Allmendinger Ford 1m16.978s + 0.678s
16. Robby Gordon Toyota 1m17.051s + 0.751s
17. Boris Said Ford 1m17.085s + 0.785s
18. Paul Menard Ford 1m17.134s + 0.834s
19. Carl Edwards Ford 1m17.163s + 0.863s
20. Joey Logano Toyota 1m17.174s + 0.874s
21. Elliott Sadler Ford 1m17.209s + 0.909s
22. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 1m17.300s + 1.000s
23. Scott Speed Toyota 1m17.350s + 1.050s
24. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 1m17.376s + 1.076s
25. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 1m17.460s + 1.160s
26. David Gilliland Ford 1m17.509s + 1.209s
27. Kyle Busch Toyota 1m17.533s + 1.233s
28. Joe Nemechek Toyota 1m17.536s + 1.236s
29. Max Papis Toyota 1m17.548s + 1.248s
30. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 1m17.623s + 1.323s
31. Regan Smith Chevrolet 1m17.690s + 1.390s
32. Jan Magnussen Chevrolet 1m17.711s + 1.411s
33. David Reutimann Toyota 1m17.863s + 1.563s
34. Matt Kenseth Ford 1m17.867s + 1.567s
35. PJ Jones Toyota 1m17.893s + 1.593s
36. Brad Keselowski Dodge 1m17.910s + 1.610s
37. JJ Yeley Dodge 1m17.988s + 1.688s
38. Mattias Ekstrom Toyota 1m18.034s + 1.734s
39. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 1m18.312s + 2.012s
40. Travis Kvapil Ford 1m18.740s + 2.440s
41. Kevin Conway Ford 1m18.805s + 2.505s
42. David Ragan Ford
43. Dave Blaney Toyota 1m18.249s + 1.949s
Did not qualify:
Brandon Ash Dodge 1m18.427s + 2.127s
Brian Simo Chevrolet 1m18.733s + 2.433s
Michael Waltrip Toyota 1m19.441s + 3.141s