McMurray tops field in Martinsville qualifying

Jamie McMurray took a step toward jump-starting his season Saturday by winning the pole at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

McMurray turned a lap of 96.509 mph in his Chevrolet to earn the top starting spot for today’s race. He came to Martinsville ranked 28th in the Sprint Cup Series standings and with a season-best finish of 18th in the opener at Daytona.

“This is really big for our team,” said McMurray. “We’ve had some really good cars, and for the most part, the short tracks is where we’ve run the best. But we got caught up in that wreck at Phoenix and at Bristol … got caught up in a wreck. It just seems like we’ve had really bad luck. But I hope this turns around for us.”

McMurray said he was pacing through his team hauler during the qualifying session, and his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing crew was making fun of him for being so nervous about potentially winning the pole.

“I told them, ‘Martinsville, the pole, if you get the No. 1 pit stall here, it’s huge. I think that can win the race for you,’ ” McMurray said of the stall he’ll use today at the exit of pit road.

Ryan Newman qualified second with a lap of 96.342 in a Chevrolet.

Kasey Kahne qualified third in a Toyota and was followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Joey Logano and three-time defending race winner Denny Hamlin.

Five-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson qualified 17th.

Johnny Sauter passed Kyle Busch one lap before the finish to win the Trucks Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Busch had the race wrapped up until a caution with nine laps to go set up one final restart. He had a good start, but Sauter reeled him in and passed Busch right before the white flag.

Sauter pulled away for his first win of the season, and third in 65 career series starts.

Rumors that Kimi Raikkonen was headed to NASCAR became reality when the former Formula One world champion signed with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The Finn will make his NASCAR debut May 20 driving a KBM Toyota Tundra in the Trucks Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

Raikkonen spent nine years in Formula One, driving for Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari. He was teammates with current NASCAR star Juan Pablo Montoya at McLaren.

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