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."
Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Six top fives, 14 top 10s · Average finish of 17.0 · Average Running Position of 14.6, third-best · Driver Rating of 88.3, fourth-best · 7,702 Green Flag Passes, second-most · Series-high 2,431 Laps in the Top 15 (63.9%) · Series-high 5,288 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) · Five wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s · Average finish of 15.5 · Series-best Average Running Position of 14.5 · Driver Rating of 90.7, second-best · 80 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 6,981 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 193.336 mph, ninth-fastest · 2,313 Laps in the Top 15 (60.8%), third-most · 4,478 Quality Passes, third-most
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) · One win, four top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 19.0 · Driver Rating of 82.0, 10th-best · 80 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 1,572 Laps in the Top 15 (45.9%), 10th-most · 3,507 Quality Passes, ninth-most
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Two wins, six top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.5 · Average Running Position of 16.0, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 87.5, fifth-best · 2,070 Laps in the Top 15 (54.4%), fourth-most · 3,944 Quality Passes, fifth-most
Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 17.8 · Average Running Position of 14.5, second-best · Driver Rating of 89.9, third-best · 6,413 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · 2,423 Laps in the Top 15 (63.7%), second-most · 4,664 Quality Passes, second-most
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) · Three wins, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 15.1 · Driver Rating of 82.9, eighth-best · 1,043 Laps in the Top 15 (45.3%), 22nd-most
Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet) · One top 10 · Average finish of 13.0 · Average Running Position of 15.1, fourth-best · Series-best Driver Rating of 95.6 · Average Green Flag Speed of 193.444 mph, second-fastest
Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · Two top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 19.9 · Average Running Position of 16.9, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 82.2, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 193.326 mph, 10th-fastest
Jamie McMurray (No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet) · Two wins, six top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 20.4 · Driver Rating of 79.8, 12th-best · 6,049 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · 1,736 Laps in the Top 15 (45.6%), seventh-most · 3,456 Quality Passes, 10th-most
David Ragan (No. 18 Pedigree Toyota) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 16.5 · Driver Rating of 80.9, 11th-best · 5,952 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 193.337 mph, eighth-fastest
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford) · One top five, two top 10s · Average finish of 8.7 · Average Running Position of 16.0, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 85.0, sixth-best · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 193.454 mph