After a whirlwind week of appearances and interviews as the champion of NASCAR's season opener and biggest race, McMurray got back into the cockpit of his No. 1 Chevrolet on Friday and qualified first with a lap of 183.744 mph at the two-mile superspeedway.
"I am so amazed at the week I've had, and then to come here to be able to be on the pole," McMurray said. "I really can't believe it. It's just pretty awesome."
McMurray captured his fourth career pole, his first at California, and will be joined on the front row by Earnhardt Ganassi teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who ran a lap of 183.477 mph to qualify second.
Clint Bowyer qualified third in another Chevy, which has an engine also built by Earnhardt-Childress Racing, like the ones in McMurray and Montoya's cars.
Kasey Kahne was fourth in his No. 9 Ford, followed by Dave Blaney in a Toyota. The highest-qualifying Dodge was Sam Hornish Jr. in eighth.
Matt Kenseth, who won at California the last two Februarys, qualified 20th. Kenseth hasn't won a race since opening last season with victories at Daytona and California and this week changed crew chiefs.
Roush Fenway drivers have won the past five February races at California, with Kenseth winning three of the past four. Greg Biffle won in 2005 and Carl Edwards went to victory lane three years ago. Edwards qualified 31st, five spots ahead of Biffle.
When McMurray got to the track Friday morning, he described it as "just a different feeling that I've ever had in the garage area."
After all the responsibilities that came with winning at Daytona, which he said he definitely enjoyed, McMurray still looked forward to getting back into the car. He was feeling even better after he won the pole.
"Getting in the car ... it was going to be easier than what I had to do Monday through Thursday. I was like, honestly, whew, I can't want to get back to the race track to I can rest," McMurray said. "It's just been so busy. I've been on such a high the last four days. And I don't think that'll go away if you happen to have a bad run because fortunately you always get to be the Daytona 500 champion."
McMurray woke up Friday morning finally feeling rested but with a sore throat. He took antibiotics to feel better.
"I just didn't want to get sick for Sunday," he said.