McMurray's surprise pole

Jamie McMurrary, a bright star in brief spells this season, capped his rookie season with his first Winston Cup pole position in qualifying for this weekend's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

McMurray's surprise pole

The Florida oval has been heavily revised since last year, with variable banking introduced to improve the racing. McMurray mastered the new corners better than anyone else, circling the track in 29.816s (181.111mph), outpacing Bobby Labonte by 0.006s. However, McMurray didn't know how relevant qualifying would be come the race.

"I don't know that qualifying is going to show exactly what the best car for race day is," said McMurray. "It's kind of bewildering. We won't have to change very much for race day, because the track has so much grip."

Labonte voiced some concern over tyre wear on the new track surface. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver noted that the cars have a tendency to push as the tires wear, stressing and heating the right-front. "We're all watching that, and I'm sure Goodyear is watching that."

Brian Vickers qualified third, his fourth-straight top-four starting position. That record is even more impressive given that he's only run the final four races as a pre-cursor to a full rookie season in 2004.

Ryan Newman, who has taken 11 poles this year, qualified fourth, ahead of four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

Matt Kenseth had a torrid time on his first outing since winning the Winston Cup. The new champ struggled for pace, and was forced to use a provisional to get into the field.

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