McMURRAY’S ON A ROLL, figuratively

JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 race at Auto Club Speedway with a lap of 39.18/183.744. He’s fresh off his amazing two-lap dash for cash to win last weekend’s Daytona 500. McMurray started the season’s opening race from lucky thirteenth.

“Honestly, I thought we’d be in the top seven. I’m still amazed by the week I’ve had. It’s pretty awesome.” He thought the earlier qualifiers in the sun had a bit of an advantage. McMurray was twenty-fifth in the qualifying order.

McMurray has had a whirlwind time of it since winning last weekend, including NASCAR/Infineon Raceway generated playtime all-day Wednesday, playing tourist and meeting fans in San Francisco.

The sun wasn’t out long Friday, before the cloud cover took over. It was cold, windy and overcast for the remainder of the session.

Stats wise, this is McMurray’s fourth Cup pole in his 260 races, and first in 14 times at Auto Club Speedway, nee California Speedway.

McMurray’s teammate, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.42 Chevrolet, will start besides him on the front row, a first for the team. Neither driver thought his run was that great. Both said the cars were fast, had lots of speed and good engines. Credit was given to the team and the cars it builds. Montoya said “That is the kind of momentum this team needs. It is huge.”

Third through fifth were CLINT BOWYER/No.33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, KASEY KAHNE/No.9 Petty Motorsports Ford and DAVE BLANEY/No.66 Prism Motorsports Toyota – a new team with year old equipment from Michael Waltrip Racing with Pro-Motor engines. Blaney was “pretty surprised” about his performance. His crew now consists of just three guys. “Our stuff is good – we just don’t have much.”

Top Rookie honors went to KEVIN CONWAY/No.37 Yates Ford, who qualified thirty-eighth. He is the only Rookie in the field.

Despite his car breaking on his qualifying lap, BORIS SAID/No.26 Ford made the field based on Owner Points, starting forty-second. The other two drivers starting the race with the same criteria are ROBBY GORDON/No.7 Toyota in fortieth and DAVID GILLILAND/No.38 Ford in forty-first.

The last of the Go or Go Home drivers to make the field was MAX PAPIS/No.13 Germain Racing Toyota. That means those who enjoy his hospitality will have expresso for the weekend.

The three drivers going home are CASEY MEARS/No.90 Chevrolet, JOHNNY SAUTER/No.35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, and the other Rookie, TERRY COOK/No.46 Whitney Motorsports Dodge. This is the second consecutive qualifying failure  for both both Mears and Cook.

Saturday’s Cup schedule consists of two mid-morning practices, one for 45 minutes and the last for 65 minutes. The Nationwide Series qualifies in the morning, and races in the afternoon.