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McMurray takes pole at Fontana

20 February 2010

The wave of success Jamie McMurray rode from coast to coast hasn't broken yet.

Fresh from his dramatic victory in last Sunday's Daytona 500, McMurray put his #1 Chevrolet on the pole during Friday's qualifying session at Auto Club Speedway.

With a lap at 183.744mph (39.185 seconds), McMurray edged Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya (183.477mph) for the top starting spot in Sunday's Auto Club 500, the second points race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Clint Bowyer qualified third at 183.127mph, as cars powered by Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines grabbed the top three positions on the grid. Kasey Kahne (182.913mph) was fourth in the #9 Ford, followed by Dave Blaney (182.908mph).

Kevin Harvick (182.899mph), Bowyer's team-mate at Richard Childress Racing, qualified sixth. Four-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, eager to rebound from a 35th-place finish at Daytona, qualified seventh. Sam Hornish Jr., Kyle Busch and Mark Martin claimed starting positions eight-ten.

Despite a whirlwind post-Daytona 500 schedule that included appearances in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, McMurray arrived at Fontana with an optimism that was reinforced by the performance of his car.

"I ran my first two laps of practice, and the car has really good speed in it," said McMurray, who now has four career poles, the last coming on the road course at Sonoma in 2007. "The car feels really solid, so that was refreshing to go through everything this week and get here and have a fast car again.

"I think this weekend is what really sets the standard for the rest of these races. It should be a really good weekend."

McMurray and crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion piggybacked on the setup for the two-mile track developed by Montoya and #42 Chevy crew chief Brian Pattie.

"The good thing is that, everywhere we've been, I've really liked the 42 car setup, what Juan and Brian have developed," said McMurray who drove a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing last year. "So we just unloaded here very similar to what they had - and a couple of small things different - and we just adjusted our car from there.

"Honestly, when I went out, I hoped to get in the top seven. I felt like, if we ran a good lap, we would be in the top seven, so being on the pole was really unexpected."

Casey Mears, Johnny Sauter and Terry Cook failed to qualify for Sunday's race.


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