LONG POND, Pa. (AP) – 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 today’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.

McMurray spoke with his crew last week at New Hampshire and fully explained the situation to a team that heard about the driver’s jump to Roush Racing through the Internet.

“That’s tough, but you get in a situation where you can’t talk,” he said. “You try to do the right thing and it always ends up making someone mad. They’re not going to give up on me. I told them I’m going to give a 100 percent.

“I think everyone just understands the deal.”

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 starts second in his Ford on Sunday, turning a lap of 168.533 and Martin was third in the No. 6 Ford at 168.383.

“At least I made McMurray sweat for a little bit, Busch said.

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 Sunday 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.

McMurray was a relative unknown when Ganassi picked him out of the Busch Series to drive for him in 2003. He has long been a rumored candidate for several top rides, but Ganassi has held him to the contract he signed in 2002. When his name was mentioned for other jobs last season, Ganassi picked up the option for this season.

“There’s nothing more I want to do then prove all of you wrong who said that we were going to fall apart when that was announced,” McMurray said. “That just kind of drives me and it’s driving my team right now.”

AP-ES-07-23-05 2039EDT


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