2-for-1: Jamie McMurray wins Martinsville pole, sets track record

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If racing at Martinsville Speedway was like buying an ice cream cone, Jamie McMurray double-dipped during Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying.

Not only did McMurray earn his second pole of the season, he also set a new track speed record (99.905 mph) in the process.

“It was a good start to our weekend,” McMurray said to Fox Sports 1 about his 11th career Sprint Cup pole. “The first pit stall here is a really big deal. I had it before and it’s critical in being able to win the race.”

McMurray shattered Matt Kenseth’s track record, which lasted for maybe 15 minutes, as Kenseth broke the old half-mile bullring’s speed mark in the first round of qualifying at 99.816 mph.

“You never know with me at Martinsville,” Kenseth quipped. “You never know if I’m going to be last or what it’s going to be.

“It was a spectacular lap on that first run. I couldn’t believe how fast it was. … The second run, we just didn’t quite have it. I probably could have done a better job.

“Overall, it was a good day for us. I really wanted to be on the pole after the first run, but it’s a good run for our team and gives us a good place to start on Sunday.”

Joey Logano qualified second at 99.605 mph, followed by Kenseth (99.318 mph), Tony Stewart (99.297) and Denny Hamlin (99.266).

“Overall, the Shell Pennzoil Ford is fast, we have speed in it, we’re starting towards the front, which is very important,” Logano said. “Now all I have to do is convince Jamie to take the outside.

“I think that’s the fastest way around here. Either way, it’s a good spot for us, we get a good pit stall, hopefully stay out of trouble and go and win this thing.”

Last week’s winner at Talladega, Brad Keselowski, was sixth-fastest in qualifying at 99.240 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson (99.230), Kyle Busch (99.209), Ryan Newman (98.836) and Kurt Busch (98.620), who won this year’s spring race at Martinsville.

“If we qualify well, it’s usually a good sign for us in the race,” Keselowski said. “The sixth place starting spot is good, not great, but certainly a position we can win from.”

Having the worst qualifying effort of the eight remaining drivers in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is Kevin Harvick, who failed to qualify no higher than 33rd position after getting into the wall twice during his qualifying effort.

Here’s the starting lineup for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500:

Row 1: Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano
Row 2: Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart
Row 3: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski
Row 4: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch
Row 5: Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch
Row 6: Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer
Row 7: Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard
Row 8: AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson
Row 9: Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 10: Austin Dillon, Casey Mears
Row 11: Greg Biffle, Justin Allgaier
Row 12: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne
Row 13: Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 14: Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill
Row 15: David Ragan, Danica Patrick
Row 16: Reed Sorenson, Alex Bowman
Row 17: Kevin Harvick, David Gilliland
Row 18: Josh Wise, Cole Whitt
Row 19: Michael Annett, Clay Rogers
Row 20: Travis Kvapil, JJ Yeley
Row 21: Timmy Hill, Kyle Fowler
Row 22: Mike Wallace

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Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”