NASCAR ROUNDUP | News and notes
Qualifying: Jamie McMurray has the pole for Pocono and a job for next year. He's only really happy about winning the top starting spot. McMurray turned a lap of 168.761 mph in his No. 42 Dodge Saturday for his second career pole and first since the final race of the 2003 season. While McMurray celebrated the top spot in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500, he's unhappy that Chip Ganassi Racing has picked up the option on next year's contract. McMurray will leave Ganassi after his contract expires to drive the No. 6 car for Roush Racing in 2007, but hoped he could make the jump after this season. McMurray did not talk about some of the specifics that will keep him with Ganassi for another year, but pledged his full commitment to the team. "When you race a car, everytime you get in it ... I don't think anyone wants to drive all 500 miles and not give all you can," he said. The deal is this: the 29-year-old McMurray is effectively a lame duck for the 2006 season. With McMurray sticking with Ganassi, there's a strong possibility that Mark Martin will extend his farewell tour, delay retirement and race another year for Roush. Martin was hopeful he could move to the Craftsman Truck series next year. When asked if this was his last Cup start at Pocono, Martin only smiled. "I wish I knew," he said before hopping off the podium. Kurt Busch will start second in his Ford, turning a lap of 168.533, and Martin was third in the No. 6 Ford at 168.383. Ryan Newman joined Martin on Row 2 and Ricky Rudd, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle round out the top five. Points leader Jimmie Johnson is ninth. McMurray, whose best start this season was fourth and has two second-place finishes, needs a strong showing today to make a move in the Chase for the Championship. He fell 16 points short of qualifying for the playoff system last year and would miss the cut this year -- he's 439 points behind Johnson and in 11th place. McMurray has to be in the top 10 or within 400 points of the lead after 26 races.
Tired out: There seems to be a split opinion on the cause of all the tire woes at the Pocono race last month that put Goodyear officials on the defensive. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was among the drivers victimized throughout the race by blown or cut tires. Most of the flat tires were on the left side, perhaps indicating some overaggressiveness. Goodyear brought the same tires from the first race, but NASCAR tried another approach, fixing the curb inside Turn 2 that seemed to give some drivers and their tires fits. "I wish they would have fixed the race track at the same time they fixed the curb," Jeff Gordon said. "There are some things in the race track, some really big bumps and roughness, that would have been nice to have gotten through that area a little better."
Fighting words: Jamie McMurray was still angry that he was spun into the wall from behind by Matt Kenseth last week at New Hampshire. McMurray said he still wants to talk to Kenseth about the incident, but there said there would be no retribution at the Pennsylvania 500. "You don't want to wreck somebody to get back at him," McMurray said. "I just wanted to find him after the race so I could punch him, to be honest with you. I was so mad. I thought I just wanted to hit him and that would make me feel better."