McMurray takes Sonoma, ends two-year pole drought

SONOMA, Calif. -- Jamie McMurray outdrove the road racing specialists and the rest of the contenders Friday to win his first pole in nearly two years.
McMurray posted his lap of 1 minute, 17.521 seconds (92.414 mph) on the 1.99-mile Infineon Raceway road course midway through the session, then had to wait for NASCAR's top qualifier Ryan Newman and former Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya, both at the rear of the qualifying line, to try to knock him off.

But Newman wound up ninth at 1:17.826 (92.062) and Montoya came up way short at 1:18.746 (90.976), good for 32nd.

"I was a little nervous," McMurray said. "I felt like somebody could definitely run faster. I definitely felt with Juan and Ryan going out later, I would definitely get beat. I kept telling everybody that."

But McMurray wound up winning his third career pole and first on a road course.

"We'd been really loose through all the high-speed corners and made up a lot of ground, so it was a good run," said McMurray, whose last pole came at Pocono in July 2005.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver nearly got one here last year, losing it to Kurt Busch. But he wound up 18th in the race.

Jamie McMurray wins his first pole since July 2005 at Pocono. (AP)
"We had a great qualifying run here last year and I ran off in turn one and made for a long day for us," McMurray said. "We made four or five laps in a row in practice earlier and it drives really good, so the guys did a good job today."

McMurray said he loves road racing and woke up Friday morning filled with excitement.

"I'm a fan of Formula One racing and I watch that every week when I can and I recently bought two go-carts so I can do more of this kind of racing," he said. "My heart was definitely beating faster this morning when I got up, looking forward to this."

Robby Gordon, considered one of the best road racers in NASCAR, was second to McMurray at 1:17.533 (92.399), followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 1:17.546 (92.384), road racing ace Boris Said at 1:17.06 (92.313) and former Sonoma winner Tony Stewart at 1:17.659 (92.263).

Gordon said McMurray had an advantage because he went later in the afternoon, when the track temperature had cooled.

"Everybody has excuses and that's mine," Gordon said. "But I think we would have been faster with a later draw."

The Associated Press News Service