Jamie McMurray leads the way for Team Chevy in new qualifying procedure at Pheonix

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Six Chevrolet SS race cars qualify in top 12 starting spots

Jamie McMurray led the way Friday for Team Chevy in qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway with a third-place time of 26.021 (138.969 mph) in his No. 1 Cessna/Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet SS.

The session marked the debut of a new knockout-style qualifying format where all 46 entrants had a 30-minute session to make a lap before the fastest 12 drivers were given a second chance to post the best time in a final 10-minute session.

Jamie McMurray, Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Jamie McMurray, Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Six-time Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson in his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet SS, was fourth-fastest in the final session. Last week’s Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., qualified fifth in his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS to give Team Chevy three of the top five starting spots in The Profit on CNBC 500 presented by Small Business Fueling America.

Also among the top dozen in the new qualifying procedure were three other Team Chevy drivers. Rookie Kyle Larson, behind the wheel of his No. 42 Clorox Chevrolet SS qualified seventh; Kurt Busch in his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy SS was 10th and Kasey Kahne qualified 11th in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS. In all, Team Chevy occupies six of the first 12 starting positions.

Brad Keselowski (Ford) won the pole position and Joey Logano (Ford) qualified second to round out the top five starters.

Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Cessna/Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet SS – Qualified 3rd

Tell us a little bit about your qualifying run and the format.
“Our Cessna Chevy, like Kyle (Larson) said, was good off the truck. Both our cars had been really good in the winter testing we did, and it showed today. I’m really happy with the car. For the qualifying format, it was exciting for me because I wasn’t in, then made another run and got in. But like what Kyle said, I think NASCAR needs to look at letting us cool the engines down on pit road so we can run full tape the full time. The whole running around – and everyone is going to do it – with that much difference in speed is hard to see into Turn 1. You don’t know if someone is coming. The excitement for me was good. But we need to be able to work on cooling the cars down. I feel confident in that if you asked everyone who qualified just now would have the same opinion as I do.”

Who was the first car that came up with the idea to run slow around the track? I’m assume not everyone one showed up thinking, ‘let’s go do that today’. You guys saw someone else do it?
“I talked to a lot of people before we started. When we do normal qualifying runs and you shut the car off at the start-finish line and coast back to the garage, when you start the car back up it’s had enough time to push air through the radiator that it cools the air 20 degrees. Everyone kind of already knew that. I think that would be difficult to police on NASCAR’s side. I think they just need to let us cool the engines down so you can run full tape the whole time to eliminate that.”

So you think most people showed up planning to do that?
“We talked about it last night at dinner – what our game plan was. I think that’s why you saw guys go out immediately the first run. I couldn’t believe how many guys went out. I thought everyone was going to sit there for 10 minutes, and when they said it’s time to go everyone took off it seemed like. I think they did that anticipating trying to get the car cooled down to make another run later.”

When you say letting you cool the cars down, do you mean having generators out there that allows you to do that?
“Most of the generators have the cool down unit built into them so they’re all one piece. I think most of the teams would be on board with wanting to do that. It’s easier to adjust the car knowing you have full grill tape for every run versus thinking it’s warm and we might take a little bit off. To me what they are going to start is people buying expensive batteries so you can run better fans on the radiators to push more air. To me, it will save everyone money if we can do the cool down units. We did a test just for this, and it would be a cost-saver for the teams to let us cool the engines down.”

Kyle Larson, no. 42 Clorox Chevrolet SS – qualified eighth (top qualifying rookie of the year contender)
Eighth in qualifying. How does that feel for your first race at Phoenix?
“I’m really pumped up about qualifying eighth. I thought we would be better once we got in the last session but we were just a little too tight. It was probably a little bit my fault trying to roll too quickly. But it was a good qualifying effort for us. Everyone on the Clorox Chevy did a great job. We rolled off the truck really good and we have a good car in race trim. I was feeling really good coming into this race. I have two good cars – our Chevy in the Nationwide Series is good too. So I’m definitely excited about being in Phoenix. Hopefully we can come away with a good finish Sunday.”

Talk about the qualifying session in the new format:
“It was interesting. I didn’t know everyone would go out to coast and cool their engines down. I thought that was pretty weird. I’m sure they will tweak on some. That was a little sketchy for other cars that were at speed. I didn’t know the 9 car was coming and I was rolling through One and Two on the bottom, and he came close to hitting me. I’m sure NASCAR will tweak on it some and make it a little different. It will be exciting.”

Team Chevy Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Qualifying report
Tags chevy, dale earnhardt jr, jamie mcmurray, jimmie johnson, kasey kahne, kurt busch, kyle larson, pheonix