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."
Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/ Red Cross Ford) · Two wins, two top fives, five top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 13.9 · Average Running Position of 10.3, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 107.5, third-best · Series-high 286 Fastest Laps Run · 452 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.878 mph, fifth-fastest · 2,441 Laps in the Top 15 (73.7%), fifth-most · 291 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), third-most
Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) · One win, two top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 14.4 · Average Running Position of 9.0, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.2, fifth-best · 230 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 492 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.996 mph, third-fastest · 2,790 Laps in the Top 15 (84.3%), second-most · Series-high 337 Quality Passes
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet) · Three top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 14.9 · Average Running Position of 12.2, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.4, 10th-best · 547 Green Flag Passes, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.451 mph, 11th-fastest · 2,277 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), eighth-most · 273 Quality Passes, fifth-most
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford EcoBoost Ford) · Three top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 12.5 · Average Running Position of 12.8, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 93.4, ninth-best · 151 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · 480 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.593 mph, ninth-fastest · 2,248 Laps in the Top 15 (67.9%), ninth-most · 279 Quality Passes, fourth-most
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet) · Seven wins, 19 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 11.5 · Series-best Average Running Position of 8.1 · Series-best Driver Rating of 111.8 · 194 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 160.130 mph · Series-high 2,982 Laps in the Top 15 (90.1%) · 272 Quality Passes, sixth-most
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 5.4 · Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best · Driver Rating of 108.9, second-best · 182 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.977 mph, fourth-fastest · 2,488 Laps in the Top 15 (84.6%), fourth-most · 266 Quality Passes, seventh-most
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 KOBALT Tools Chevrolet) · Three wins, eight top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 8.8 · Average Running Position of 9.9, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 107.5, fourth-best · 233 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · 485 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.069 mph, second-fastest · 2,504 Laps in the Top 15 (75.6%), third-most · 252 Quality Passes, eighth-most
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet) · Three top fives, four top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 14.2 · Average Running Position of 10.4, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 99.1, sixth-best · 217 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.655 mph, eighth-fastest · 2,318 Laps in the Top 15 (70.0%), seventh-most
Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota) · One win, two top fives, nine top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.7 · Average Running Position of 14.3, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 90.9, 11th-best · 113 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 469 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.346 mph, 12th-fastest · 223 Quality Passes, 12th-most
Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Seven top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.3 · Average Running Position of 11.6, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.708 mph, seventh-fastest · 2,425 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), sixth-most
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · Four top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 12.0 · Average Running Position of 13.9, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 89.6, 12th-best · 105 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · Series-high 563 Green Flag Passes · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.535 mph, 10th-fastest · 2,144 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), 11th-most · 300 Quality Passes, second-most
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 11.4 · Average Running Position of 12.4, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 94.8, eighth-best · 125 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 510 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.745 mph, sixth-fastest · 250 Quality Passes, ninth-most