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Alex Kennedy helps children sign autographs on his car on April 28, 2012, at the Aztec Speedway.

Alex Kennedy accomplished his goal during qualifying on Saturday, bringing a clean car back to the infield garages after a few laps around Sonoma Raceway.

Kennedy, 21, successfully qualified for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and will run 39th in the field of 43 cars in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in California.

It will be the first time the Aztec driver has raced in NASCAR's top division after competing in 14 Nationwide Series races since 2010.

"My big goal is just to finish. So many kids come in and try to show their stuff and get themselves in trouble. I don't want to go out there and ruin someone's day who is in the running for the Cup," Kennedy said. "I want to get to the finish with a clean car so the team doesn't have much work to do on it for the next race. That is what guys look at these days."

Kennedy automatically qualified for the race based on owner points for the No. 19 MediaMaster/Dream Factory Toyota, owned by Humphrey Smith Racing.

Kennedy is experienced at the 1.99-mile, 12-turn road course. He competed there as young as the age of 12 in Legend's car races.

"I grew up on this track, so that is not an issue. This car has a lot more horsepower than the Nationwide car, and that definitely played a key role in practice in seeing what the car could handle," Kennedy said. "The track is tight and technical. You have to be easy on the throttle, otherwise you will fall off the tires."

Knowing he would automatically qualify for the 43 car field made Saturday's session less stressful for Kennedy.

"We didn't have to worry about getting in, so we were real conservative with the car," Kennedy said. "I wanted to make sure we had enough fuel and good tires for the race because you can't refuel after qualifying. It was all about keeping the car in top shape."

Kennedy said he wasn't starstruck by the top drivers in the sport who he has been walking among for the past few days.

"When we first got here and were walking around and seeing everybody like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, it was definitely pretty cool. Marcos Ambrose has been a big help to me this whole weekend. It hit me these are the guys I am running with, but, on the track, my mentality is that it is just another car. I don't let their stardom get into my mind. I want to focus on them being a competitor and nothing more."

Jamie McMurray will start from the pole alongside Ambrose in the front row.

Kennedy aims to steer clear of danger and make a name for himself in the field.

"Mentally, I know I need to do what I have done all weekend. I will take care of the car until near the end of the race and then see what we can do," he said.

Sunday's race begins at noon and can be viewed live on TNT.

John Livingston can be reached at jlivingston@daily-times.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.