MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jamie McMurray bumped all eight of NASCAR’s championship contenders with a surprising pole-winning run Friday at Martinsville Speedway.
McMurray, who did not qualify this year for the Chase for the Sprint Cup title, set a qualifying record with a lap of 99.905 mph to nudge the six championship-eligible drivers who had advanced with him into the final round of qualifying. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver felt he had a shot at the pole based on a strong test session with his team earlier this month.
“We made the car better throughout the test and hit on a couple of things that really had a lot of speed in it, so I was pretty excited about getting here this weekend,” McMurray said. “Our cars have been so quick the past two or three months. This is a great track for me, we had a really good test, and when things are going well, you get excited to come to the track.”
Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth, who are both in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, qualified second and third.
Non-Chase driver Tony Stewart was fourth, followed by title contenders Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.
It was a terrible qualifying session for Kevin Harvick, who appeared to twice slap the wall and failed to advance out of the first round. He’ll start 33rd on Sunday, worst of all the Chase drivers.
“We just missed it today,” Harvick said in a statement distributed by his team. “We were way too loose. We struggled in practice and just missed it in qualifying. We have to get better (Saturday) and be ready to go on Sunday.”
It was an uncharacteristically poor effort for the Stewart-Haas Racing entry. Harvick has a series-leading eight poles this season and is consistently one of the fastest cars each weekend.