McMurray is still on a roll

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FONTANA, Calif. --- Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray finally may get some time to slow down and catch his breath today at the Auto Club Speedway.

Jamie McMurray: Daytona 500 winner is tired, but he still had the fastest lap Friday in qualifying for the Auto Club 500.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Jamie McMurray: Daytona 500 winner is tired, but he still had the fastest lap Friday in qualifying for the Auto Club 500.

Rain is expected at the two-mile speedway after Friday's pole qualifying for the Auto Club 500.

If McMurray was tired Friday, especially after making media appearances in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco before arriving to the racetrack, he didn't show it. In fact, he still was at full speed.

His fast lap of 183.744 mph was the best in time trials, keeping McMurray and his No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet in the same spot it ended last week's race -- out front.

"Actually, I am pretty tired but I just have really good race cars," McMurray said. "It is amazing that both of us (including teammate Juan Pablo Montoya) are on the front row. It says so much about the guys back at the shop.

"The cars have a lot of speed, good engines."

Qualifying proved McMurray's success may not be one-and-done. In fact, it proved his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team, in particular teams that use Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines, have something figured out at the two-mile track. Four of the top six teams use ECR engines, including Montoya, who was clocked at 183.477 mph.

Sunday's race starts at 3 p.m. (Fox-Ch. 54).

Clint Bowyer will be third, followed by Kasey Kahne in fourth, Dave Blaney in fifth, Kevin Harvick in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in seventh, Sam Hornish Jr. in eight, Kyle Busch in ninth and Mark Martin in 10th.

Bowyer and Harvick also use ECR engines.

Teams put a lot of effort in qualifying on Friday since today's schedule likely was to be affected by rain.

It's also considered the start of the "real" racing season since last week's Daytona 500 uses restrictor plates and other special rules. Auto Club is the first race that uses unrestricted engines and standard rules.

"I think this weekend will be a lot truer test of what our season will be like versus last week," Tony Stewart said after qualifying 16th. "We had a pretty good practice there. Usually guys are using it more for qualifying practice, but with the uncertainty of the weather (today), we used the majority of the time for race practice and felt like we had a decent start."

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.


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