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McMurray on record Darlington pole

Jamie McMurray claimed pole position and a new track record in qualifying for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway

The Earnhardt Ganassi driver backed up his performance from final practice, where he had been fastest, by setting a qualifying lap lap of 27.264 seconds at an average speed of 180.370mph, which beats the track record set by Matt Kenseth a year ago.

McMurray had been one of at least 12 drivers who made contact with the wall earlier during practice, but damage to his car was only cosmetic and his confidence was not dented either, as he improved nearly four tenths of a second from his best practice time to score his second pole of the season.

A new tyre specification from Goodyear, with softer compounds for both left and right sides, has allowed for high speeds despite high track temperatures.

"I had a real good [Turns] 1 and 2, 3 and 4 I just can't run up against the wall like some of those other guys can," said McMurray. "I pinched the car off a little bit there. Bono [Kevin Manion, crew chief] told me that a lot of guys were going through [Turns] 1 and 2 good but they were just getting killed in [Turns] 3 and 4.

"I was just maybe a little conservative there, but our car was good. I am really excited... It's been a fun day for us so far."

Jeff Gordon, the most successful active driver at Darlington, came within seven thousandths of a second of McMurray's time on his flying lap and will start from the front row of the grid, hoping to translate that into his first win of the season after many near misses.

"The car was perfect," said the Hendrick Motorsports driver, who also lapped under the previous track record. "The car was better than the driver was right there. All day we've been getting a little bit loose there off of [Turn] 2 and the car stuck better than I thought it was going to.

"I committed to the entry and got it to the middle [of the corner] but I think I went out a little bit on the exit. I knew it was going to be close. I'm very happy with that lap."

Red Bull's Brian Vickers was third as the fastest Toyota, also beating last year's record. Beside him on the second row of the grid will be the Michael Waltrip Racing Camry of David Reutimann, while Hendrick's Mark Martin rounded out the top five after holding on to pole position provisionally.

Stewart Haas' Ryan Newman was sixth, with JTG Daugherty's Marcos Ambrose seventh in his Toyota after brushing the wall on his final practice lap. Denny Hamlin looked strong in practice and was on a pole run in qualifying but could not quite complete the perfect lap, ending up eighth fastest ahead of Brad Keselowski, who was the fastest Dodge once again.

Kasey Kahne was 10th fastest and best of the Ford drivers. Among them Carl Edwards notably struggled both in practice and qualifying, ending up only 41st fastest.

Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch, who won last weekend at Richmond, brushed the wall twice during his qualifying effort and will be forced to his back up car for the race. At least six other drivers had to switch cars earlier following incidents in practice, one of those being Dale Earnhardt Jr, who made contact with the barrier in practice both with his primary and back-up cars, ending up 19th on the grid.

Michael McDowell was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 18th, while Reed Sorenson spun on his second qualifying lap but still made the field and will start 36th.

Joe Nemechek and Casey Mears, who both crashed in qualifying simulation runs in the final practice, failed to make it into Saturday night's 500-mile event, as did Mike Bliss.

Pos  Driver              Car        Speed       Time     Gap
 1.  Jamie McMurray      Chevrolet  180.370mph  27.264s
 2.  Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet  180.323mph  27.271s  + 0.007s
 3.  Brian Vickers       Toyota     179.987mph  27.322s  + 0.058s
 4.  David Reutimann     Toyota     179.252mph  27.434s  + 0.170s
 5.  Mark Martin         Chevrolet  179.148mph  27.450s  + 0.186s
 6.  Ryan Newman         Chevrolet  179.056mph  27.464s  + 0.200s
 7.  Marcos Ambrose      Toyota     179.037mph  27.467s  + 0.203s
 8.  Denny Hamlin        Toyota     178.919mph  27.485s  + 0.221s
 9.  Brad Keselowski     Dodge      178.835mph  27.498s  + 0.234s
10.  Kasey Kahne         Ford       178.802mph  27.503s  + 0.239s
11.  Jeff Burton         Chevrolet  178.789mph  27.505s  + 0.241s
12.  AJ Allmendinger     Ford       178.569mph  27.539s  + 0.275s
13.  Joey Logano         Toyota     178.549mph  27.542s  + 0.278s
14.  Kurt Busch          Dodge      178.432mph  27.560s  + 0.296s
15.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Chevrolet  178.277mph  27.584s  + 0.320s
16.  Scott Speed         Toyota     178.238mph  27.590s  + 0.326s
17.  Greg Biffle         Ford       178.045mph  27.620s  + 0.356s
18.  Michael McDowell    Toyota     177.942mph  27.636s  + 0.372s
19.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Chevrolet  177.890mph  27.644s  + 0.380s
20.  Paul Menard         Ford       177.858mph  27.649s  + 0.385s
21.  David Ragan         Ford       177.588mph  27.691s  + 0.427s
22.  Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet  177.550mph  27.697s  + 0.433s
23.  Bobby Labonte       Chevrolet  177.467mph  27.710s  + 0.446s
24.  Tony Stewart        Chevrolet  177.403mph  27.720s  + 0.456s
25.  Sam Hornish Jr      Dodge      177.390mph  27.722s  + 0.458s
26.  Robby Gordon        Toyota     177.326mph  27.732s  + 0.468s
27.  Clint Bowyer        Chevrolet  177.313mph  27.734s  + 0.470s
28.  Dave Blaney         Toyota     177.166mph  27.757s  + 0.493s
29.  Matt Kenseth        Ford       176.676mph  27.834s  + 0.570s
30.  JJ Yeley            Dodge      176.562mph  27.852s  + 0.588s
31.  David Stremme       Ford       176.245mph  27.902s  + 0.638s
32.  Regan Smith         Chevrolet  176.094mph  27.926s  + 0.662s
33.  Martin Truex Jr     Toyota     176.075mph  27.929s  + 0.665s
34.  David Gilliland     Ford       176.031mph  27.936s  + 0.672s
35.  Kevin Harvick       Chevrolet  175.999mph  27.941s  + 0.677s
36.  Reed Sorenson       Toyota     175.987mph  27.943s  + 0.679s
37.  Todd Bodine         Toyota     175.980mph  27.944s  + 0.680s
38.  Elliott Sadler      Ford       175.760mph  27.979s  + 0.715s
39.  Kyle Busch          Toyota     175.698mph  27.989s  + 0.725s
40.  Travis Kvapil       Ford       175.359mph  28.043s  + 0.779s
41.  Carl Edwards        Ford       174.124mph  28.242s  + 0.978s
42.  Kevin Conway        Ford       172.372mph  28.529s  + 1.265s
43.  Max Papis           Toyota     175.484mph  28.023s  + 0.759s

Did not qualify:

     Joe Nemechek        Toyota     174.935mph  28.111s  + 0.847s
     Casey Mears         Chevrolet  173.920mph  28.275s  + 1.011s
     Mike Bliss          Chevrolet  173.369mph  28.365s  + 1.101s

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