McMurray turned in a lap at Auto Club Speedway of 185.285 mph, giving him his fourth Sprint Cup series pole of the year.
"I really thought our car was good in race trim," McMurray said. "We were trying stuff today that was really off the wall that we haven't run all year long."
McMurray has wins this season at both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, but he is not among the 12 drivers who are a part of the Chase for the Championship.
Elliott Sadler was the second-fastest qualifier, followed by Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne.
Jimmie Johnson, who holds an eight-point advantage over Denny Hamlin in the championship race, qualified eighth. Hamlin will start 34th. There are 101 points separating the top nine spots in the title race.