Friday, February 19, 2010

McMurray Takes Pole for Sprint Cup Race at Auto Club Speedway

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

While the 2010 Daytona 500 is the highly-coveted season opening race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the 500-mile restrictor plate event is often considered on its own merits. Many teams have been bracing for the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway (I think sponsorship placement might be running amok) as the official start to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

In fact, the past two Daytona 500 winners, Ryan Newman in 2008 and Matt Kenseth in 2009, experienced less than stellar seasons following their Daytona celebrations missing the Chase for the Cup in their respective years. With this history now weighing on the newly-crowned Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, him and the #1 EGR (Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing) Chevrolet are intent to break the cycle. Through Friday afternoon qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the #1 Chevrolet Impala appears on a linear path to being a force throughout the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Carrying momentum from the Daytona 500 victory, McMurray rocketed around the 2-mile oval at 39.185 seconds equating to an average speed of 183.744 MPH. A high accomplishment for the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya's 2nd place run allowed the team to take full possession of the front row.

As EGR serves up a 1-2 punch against the NASCAR Sprint Cup competition for the start of Sunday's Auto Club 500, qualifying results for the 2nd race of the 2010 season appears to show another emerging threat. The Earnhardt-Childress Engines program which powers EGR, Richard Childress Racing and the Furniture Row Racing team is following up their show of incredible potency since Daytona Speedweeks, continuing to have legs on the Sprint Cup competition around 2-mile oval in California. Settling 3rd after holding the top spot earlier in qualifying, Clint Bowyer in Childress' #33 car placed three Chevrolets in front of Kasey Kahne.

Kahne and the #9 of Richard Petty Motorsports have so far shown speed in their new Ford Fusion stock cars (spending time in victory lane after winning one of the Gatorade Duel 150 races) but will be looking for a strong finish at Auto Club Speedway.

In 5th place after time trials, the biggest surprise of the short year so far. Failing the break into the Daytona 500, the #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota driven by Dave Blaney will be attempting to turn this starting position at Auto Club Speedway into a valuable points day which could aid the team in cracking into a prized top-35 in car owner points spot for 2010. While the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is currently resting on 2009 car owner points t0 entitle the top-35 teams into this season, after the 5th race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will update to 2010 points guaranteeing teams within the top-35 the ability to race in upcoming weekends.

Having some of their fire stolen by the Earnhardt-Childress Engine brigade, the standard Chevrolet front-runner Hendrick Motorsports has two race machines positioned in the top 10, Jimmie Johnson in 7th and Mark Martin in 10th.

Auto Club 500 Qualifying
NASCAR Sprint Cup

Top 10:
1) #1 Jamie McMurray         Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
2) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
3) #33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
4) #9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
5) #66 Dave Blaney Prism Motorsports Toyota
6) #29 Kevin Harvick Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet
7) #48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
8) #77 Sam Hornish Jr. Auto Club Dodge
9) #18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
10) #5 Mark Martin Chevrolet

Other Notables:
12) #2 Kurt Busch         Miller Lite Dodge 
14) #31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
16) #14 Tony Stewart Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet
18) #39 Ryan Newman Haas Automation Chevrolet
20) #17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
24) #09 Aric Almirola Phoenix Racing Chevrolet
27) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy Juice / National Guard Chevrolet
28) #24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
29) #43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
31) #99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
42) #26 Boris Said Sacred Power/Southern Pride Trucking Ford
43) #13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota

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