By Joe Dunn
Jamie McMurray backed up his fast time in the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Darlington Raceway as he picked up his fast lap speed by more than two mph. Turning a lap of 27.264 seconds at 180.370 mph, McMurray put the Earnhardt Ganassi #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet on the pole for Saturday night’s race. Joining McMurray on the front row will be Jeff Gordon in the Hendrick Motor Sports #24 DuPont / National Guard Chevrolet, Brian Vickers was third fastest in the # 83 Red Bull Toyota.
Tony Stewart qualified a disappointing 24th as misfortune plagues his second season as an owner driver. His Stewart Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman qualified sixth. The series top points leaders also struggled as Kevin Harvick qualified his #29 Shell / Penzoil Chevrolet 35th and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson starts 22nd in his #48 Lowes’s Chevrolet.
Michael McDowell registered the fastest time of the Go or Go Homer’s, as he starts 18th. Missing the Southern 500 will be Joe Nemecheck in the #87 NEMCO Toyota, Casey Mears, in the Tommy Baldwin racing # 36 Chevrolet along with Mike Bliss in the Phoenix Construction # 09 Chevrolet.
Kevin Conway, who fell out of the top 35 in owners points, swapped car numbers again this week with David Gilliland who was locked in the top 35. Conway, who recorded the slowest time of the day will start 43rd in the #37 Extenze Ford based on owners points, while Gilliland will start 34th in the #38 Taco Bell Ford.
Larry Gunselman’s # 64 Little Joe’s Auto Sales Toyota will make it’s second start of the season rolling off 37th with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Todd Bodine behind the wheel. This combination presents a bit of nostalgia, as Bodine last drove a Little Joe’s Auto Sales sponsored car May 6, 2000 at Richmond International Raceway. Car owner Larry Gunselman says that this is the same Little Joe’s that was the sponsor for Bodine on the #91 Chevrolet owned then by Joe Falk.