McMurray races to Southern 500 pole
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jamie McMurray notched his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole with a record setting lap to top the field in Friday’s qualifying session for Saturday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
McMurray posted a top speed of 180.370 mph to break the previous track record of 179.514 mph set by Matt Kenseth in this same event last year and knock Jeff Gordon off the top spot.
Friday’s pole was the second of the season for the Daytona 500 winner, coming just two weeks after his second-place showing at Talladega.
“We had a really good car in practice and I think that almost puts more pressure on you to go out and back that up (in qualifying).,” said McMurray. “This is one of those racetracks where you really can’t be too aggressive, so I was pretty impressed with the grip the car had thru turns one and two.
“(Crew Chief) Bono (Manion) had came on the radio and said everyone was getting through one and two pretty good , but they were losing it in three and four, so I was maybe a little bit too conservative in turns three and four but it was still enough.”
Jeff Gordon also eclipsed the track record with a top speed of 180.323 mph, but came up less than a tenth of a second short of beating out McMurray and settled for a runner-up effort. Brian Vickers followed with a lap of 179.987 mph to take third.
“I knew it was going to be close. The car was perfect,” said Gordon of his qualifying effort. “The car was better than the driver was right there. We've been getting a little bit loose over there off of two. The car stuck better than I thought it was going to. I committed to the entry and got it through the middle. I think I wimped out a little bit on the exit.
From that point on, I thought we still had a good lap going and just didn't want to mess it up in three and four. I got through there pretty good.”
David Reutimann grabbed fourth place with a lap just under the previous track record with a speed of 179.252. Martin held onto the fifth starting spot with a lap of 179.148 mph.
With temperatures soaring well into the 90’s, the track speeds started out fast and only got faster as qualifying progressed through the sweltering afternoon session.
“This place is pretty intense. Man, it gets your attention,” said Reutimann. “The speeds just kept going up and up as the shade goes down.”
The track known as the “Track Too Tough To Tame” had already reared it’s head earlier in the day, as no fewer than 10 cars - including McMurray’s - made contact with the wall during the days first two practice sessions
Kyle Busch pancaked the wall during the first practice session and found the wall again on his qualifying run, relegating him to a 39th-place starting spot. Reed Sorenson looped his car in his qualifying attempt and will start 36th in his third start of 2010.
Joe Nemechek, Casey Mears and Mike Bliss failed to make the show for Saturday’s race.
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* Denotes Rookie
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