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McMurray Is No. 1 At Martinsville

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 2 2011

Jamie McMurray came up big in qualifying at NASCAR's shortest track. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Jamie McMurray earned the right to start Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway from the pole after turning a fast qualifying lap at 96.509 mph on Saturday afternoon.

The pole is the first of the season for McMurray, the  Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver who won the 2010 Daytona 500 and the 2010 Brickyard 400.

Ryan Newman, also in a Chevrolet Impala SS, of Stewart Haas Racing was second fastest in qualifying for the Goody Fast Relief 500 with a lap at 96.342 mph.

“We have a really good car,” McMurray said. “This is one of my favorite tracks. I’ve always loved coming to Martinsville. It’s a unique race track and I think the guys the guys that enjoy coming here typically run well. We had a really good car in race trim yesterday. We struggled in qualifying trim.

“Bono (Kevin Manion, crew chief) and the guys made a couple of small adjustments. You come here and you are kind of at the mercy of your car. It is really slick, it is cold today, you need four or five laps to get going. We had a really good car today.”

Newman, second in series points heading into Martinsville, was also fairly happy with his car in qualifying.

“I just couldn’t get off the corner as good as I wanted to,” Newman said. “I could feel the

The good start to the 2011 season continued for Ryan Newman Saturday when he qualified second for Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

car turning a little bit better than I expected it to. I could commit to it and then lose what I had going or I could just take what I had and see what that got me and it got me I think a .66 (in time) on the second lap. It is a great run for the Haas Automation Chevrolet.”

Kasey Kahne, in a Red Bull Racing Toyota, was third fastest. His top lap was at 96.293 mph.
“I felt like I was sliding around some, but I think everybody probably was,” Kahne said. “The track is cool, the tires are cool and kind of got through the corners pretty well.  I was pretty happy.
“I look forward to tomorrow. I think the tire thing is going to be interesting on how it works.  Hopefully the rubber lays down pretty quick and we can make some long runs.  I think that’s when this race is at it’s best is when you do make those runs and the speeds change of everybody’s cars.  So, we’ll see how that goes.  But, at the same time the rear tires falling off is going to change everybody’s speed too so it will be interesting.  I think it should be a pretty good race.”

Joey Logano of Joe Gibbs Racing was fourth fastest and his teammate, Denny Hamlin, who is seeking his fourth straight victory at the Martinsville .526-mile track, was fifth.

A.J. Allmendinger of Richard Petty Motorsports was sixth fastest and was the quickest of the Ford Fusion drivers.

“We’ll take it,” Allmendinger said. “This place is so tough and lap times are so close.  I feel like everybody is struggling to get rear grip in their car.  I just felt like the car is turning really good, it’s the best that this thing has ever turned.  Mike Shiplett and everybody on the team has worked hard together to focus on our weak spots the last time we were here.  We’ve done that and now we have to work on rear grip.  I was a little hesitant off the corners and was a little bit loose.”

Rounding out the top 10 were Bobby Labonte, David Reutimann, Kevin Harvick and Regan Smith.

Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was 17th. Current points leader Carl Edwards was 23rd.

“I was trying to decide how to make these tires work,” Edwards said. “I thought I warmed up mine a little too much.  It’s just so hard to get the tires to go right away.  I don’t know if it’s the construction, I guess it’s got to be the compound because once they get warmer, they seem to go faster.  Everybody is kind of chasing this ghost out here, trying to figure out what exactly it takes to go fast on the third lap of qualifying.  I think we’re good after six or seven laps in race trim, but that’s all I’ve got in that Aflac Fusion.  I thought that was a pretty good lap.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 2 2011
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