Jamie McMurray bests Chase crowd to claim Martinsville pole
Jamie McMurray isn't a title challenger, but for most of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, he has shown plenty of speed nevertheless.
Friday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway, McMurray won the pole for Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500, the opening race in the semifinal Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
McMurray put his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet on the pole with a lap of 99.905 miles per hour, enough to edge Joey Logano, who ran 99.605 mph in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
It's McMurray's 11th career pole and second of the season. It will also give him the much-desired first pit stall at the far end of pit road.
"Good start to the weekend," said McMurray, who is enjoying a father-son weekend at Martinsville with son Carter, who is one month shy of his fourth birthday. "The first pit stall is really a big deal. I've gotten to have that before and it's critical, I think, in being able to win the race."
Starting on Row 2 will be Matt Kenseth in the first of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas and Tony Stewart in his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, followed on Row 3 by Denny Hamlin in a second JGR entry and Brad Keselowski in the other Penske Ford.
Logano said he was good in Turns 1 and 2, but not in Turns 3 and 4, which was the difference in the pole and second place on the grid.
"Got into (Turn) 3 good and then got to the center and waited on it too long and couldn't get the nose to turn," said Logano, who is making his seventh front-row start of the year. "But overall, the Shell/Pennzoil Ford is fast. We've got speed in it, were starting towards the front, which is very important here."
Completing the top 10 were Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.
Qualifying was two rounds, with six of the eight Chase drivers advancing to the second and final round. The only two who didn't were Jeff Gordon, who qualified 13th, and Kevin Harvick, who was 33rd. Harvick's result was his worst at a non-restrictor-plate track all season long.
"I don't mind starting 13th," said Gordon, who has eight victories here. "We'll suffer with the pit stall selection. We can definitely still win from there. Our car is really good."
Among other drivers of interest, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 23rd, seven positions ahead of Danica Patrick. After missing last week's race at Talladega Superspeedway, Patrick's boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse qualified 18th.
With 43 cars entered in the race, there were no drivers who failed to qualify.
VIDEO: A look back at the night earlier this season when Jamie McMurray won $1 million