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 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. He said his Richard Petty Motorsports team 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 the pole two weeks in a row.”

Johnson ended up third, putting Hendrick Motorsports teammates second and third on the grid, but said he’s got a lot of work to do on his Chevrolet.

“We’ve been really struggling on comfort in the car since we unloaded,” Johnson said. “Clearly the speed is in the car, but the comfort is not quite there. We just worked on qualifying trim and it was on edge the whole lap. I hope that we can get some rear grip in the car and get things to calm down for the race, because I don’t want to drive 110 laps the way it drove today.”

Greg Biffle qualified fourth in a Ford, and was followed by Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. knows exactly where he stacks up on road courses.

“I don’t really take them lightly, but I know that’s not my forte,” he said. “That’s not really where my bread is buttered.”

The statistics speak for themselves: In 12 career starts at Sonoma, Earnhardt has never finished higher than 11th. At Watkins Glen, the only other road course on the Sprint Cup schedule, he has three top-10 finishes — but none since 2005.

But he’s running so well this season, Earnhardt believes he has a shot Sunday on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile scenic Sonoma course.

“We have had such a good season, and we come in here and we want to continue that,” said Earnhardt, who will start 19th.

Earnhardt ended his four-year losing streak last weekend at Michigan. He’d been steadily working his way toward Victory Lane all year, the most consistent driver through the first 15 races. He leads the series with 12 top-10 finishes, and he’s the only driver to complete every lap this season.

He’s wary, though, of what the good results mean.

“I don’t know really, momentum, whether it’s real or not,” he said. “You just kind of keep going to the racetrack and keep studying and keep testing and keep trying to learn and take the best thing you can to the racetrack each week. If you have a bad week, you’ve got to put it behind you and focus on what’s been working.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence and we are feeling really good about what we have been doing, and this is the best I’ve felt in a really long time.”

He appreciated the visits to Victory Lane from other drivers. His rivals seemed genuinely happy that his 143-race winless streak is over.

“I think it was good for us to see him in Victory Lane, and for him to get out of that media category of talking about losing more than (the) people who are winning is good,” Kevin Harvick said. “I think for him to get that pressure off of himself, to be able to get back in Victory Lane with the way that they have run all year is fun to see, and obviously everybody wanted to see him win.”

INDYCAR: Dario Franchitti won the third of the first three qualifying heat races in the history of the IndyCar series to take the pole for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Newton, Iowa.

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.

The starting grid was set by three 30-lap heat races seeded according to practice times. The eight fastest in the last practice competed in the final heat, which set the first four rows for tonight’s race.