McMurray Sets Track Record at Darlington to Win His Second Pole of Season
Associated Press via ESPN.com
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jamie McMurray couldn't help smiling during his record-setting lap at Darlington Raceway. Turned out, he was one of few to leave the track happy.
McMurray set a Darlington record of 180.370 mph to lead qualifying Friday for the Southern 500. Seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon was a whisker behind at 180.323 and Brian Vickers third in 179.987.
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireJamie McMurray set a track record at Darlington in qualifying.
All three bettered the old mark that Matt Kenseth set a year ago.
"I was like grinning in the car because you just don't get to have this kind of lap very often," McMurray said.
It was the fifth career pole and second this season for the Daytona 500 champion. And it came on a day when racers had a hard enough time staying on course at the track "Too Tough To Tame."
Last week's winner at Richmond, Kyle Busch, scraped the wall on his qualifying run, drawing cheers from those in the stands in front of the start-finish line. Busch will start 39th on Saturday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked on his second lap of practice and moved to a back up car. He was so spooked by the track, Earnhardt Jr. predicted he'd show up here one year, have another bad run and give up the sport.
That's an attitude "Little E" didn't inherit from his late father -- Dale Earnhardt is second on Darlington's career list with nine victories. Earnhardt finished 19th fastest.
Mark Martin, who won this race at 50 years old a year ago, had the fifth fastest time and will start alongside Ryan Newman.
Roush Fenway Racing star Carl Edwards could not get in on time and used his top 35 position in owners points to make the field. Edwards will start 41st.
Speeds increased again in the Sprint Cup series third visit since a multimillion dollar repaving project smoothed out the rough edges of the six-decade-old, egg-shaped superspeedway.
Where the choppy surface in the past might give racers time to correct and yield a gentle "Darlington stripe," now drivers edge harder into the wall and lead to bigger problems.
"It makes it pretty hairy," said Gordon, who shares the track record of five Southern 500s with Cale Yarborough.
McMurray has had his struggles with Darlington since his first Sprint Cup visit in 2003. He had qualified inside the top 10 just once in nine previous races and has only finished in the top 15 once in his last four events.
McMurray credited his No. 26 Chevrolet for the success.
"When you come somewhere like here, when your car doesn't stick, you hit the wall," he said. "You just hope it sticks. And if it does, you run a good lap."
Thursday, April 24 12:00 PM NSCS HAULERS ENTER 2:00 PM NSCS GARAGE OPENS 7:00 PM NSCS GARAGE CLOSES
Friday, April 25 8:30 AM NSCS GARAGE OPENS 9:00 AM NSCS ROOKIE & SPOTTER MEETINGS & RANDOM DRAWING 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM NSCS PRACTICE 1:00 - 2:00 PM NSCS FINAL PRACTICE 5:10 PM NSCS QUALIFYING 7:00 PM NNS RACE 8:00 PM NSCS GARAGE CLOSES
Clint Bowyer (No. 15 AAA Insurance Toyota) · Two wins, three top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 10.1 · Average Running Position of 9.5, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 100.7, fourth-best · 183 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 851 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.414 mph, fifth-fastest · 5,140 Laps in the Top 15 (80.1%), fifth-most · 485 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), fourth-most
Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · One win, five top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 17.3 · Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 92.2, seventh-best · 364 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.386 mph, sixth-fastest · 4,338 Laps in the Top 15 (60.1%), ninth-most · 428 Quality Passes, 10th-most
Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota) · Four wins, 12 top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 7.2 · Average Running Position of 7.8, second-best · Driver Rating of 111.9, second-best · 529 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.749 mph, second-fastest · 6,271 Laps in the Top 15 (86.9%), second-most · 533 Quality Passes, third-most
Carl Edwards (No. 99 FordAlwaysRacing Ford) · One win, four top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.7 · Average Running Position of 14.9, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 90.1, ninth-best · 291 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 957 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.290 mph, ninth-fastest · 4,276 Laps in the Top 15 (59.3%), 10th-most · 429 Quality Passes, ninth-most
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) · Two wins, 16 top fives, 26 top 10s; six poles · Average finish of 14.1 · Average Running Position of 13.8, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 96.0, sixth-best · 343 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.375 mph, seventh-fastest · 4,518 Laps in the Top 15 (62.6%), eighth-most · 436 Quality Passes, seventh-most
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) · Two wins, seven top fives, nine top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 8.9 · Series-best Average Running Position of 6.6 · Series-best Driver Rating of 114.8 · Series-high 584 Fastest Laps Run · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 116.782 mph · 5,361 Laps in the Top 15 (89.2%), fourth-most
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet) · Three wins, seven top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.3 · Average Running Position of 7.9, third-best · Driver Rating of 110.0, third-best · 458 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 854 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.658 mph, third-fastest · Series-high 6,617 Laps in the Top 15 (91.7%) · Series-high 613 Quality Passes
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet) · Three wins, five top fives, eight top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 17.3 · Average Running Position of 16.2, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 88.5, 10th-best · 274 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.232 mph, 11th-fastest
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 18.0 · Driver Rating of 86.8, 11th-best · 341 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · 923 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · 4,088 Laps in the Top 15 (56.7%), 12th-most · 433 Quality Passes, eighth-most
Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.4 · Average Running Position of 11.7, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 91.6, eighth-best · 921 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most · 5,419 Laps in the Top 15 (75.1%), third-most · 550 Quality Passes, second-most
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1Chevrolet) · Three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s · Average finish of 10.6 · Average Running Position of 12.1, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 96.5, fifth-best · 276 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 875 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 116.498 mph, fourth-fastest · 4,755 Laps in the Top 15 (69.8%), sixth-most · 462 Quality Passes, fifth-most