McMurray Chases Away Chasers At CMS
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Jamie McMurray grabbed the lead away from Kyle Busch on a restart with 21 laps to go and went on to win the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night.
In doing so, he grabbed the spotlight away from shrinking list of drivers who still have hopesof winning this year Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
It was the third Sprint Cup Series victory of the season for McMurray, who failed to make the Chase despite winning the two biggest races of the season – the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. It was his sixth career victory. He had finished second at Charlotte earlier in the season.
McMurray said being able to get past Busch, one of the best in the series on restarts, was a relief.
“I don’t know that I’ve paid a lot of attention to the restarts, but restarts have all been really good for me,” McMurray said. “And I don’t know why, but I feel like I do a really good job when the tires spin, of not spinning my tires. And it’s very hard to discipline yourself when you have 900 horsepower to not continue to push the throttle down till they spin. When they start spinning, you lose a tremendous amount of speed, and it’s very hard when you know victory lane is the difference of spinning the tires and not.
“You know, I went through turns one and two wide open and I got a little bit of a run on Kyle and I heard the spotter say, “He’s still there. He’s still there. Clear.”
“And as soon as I heard “Clear,” it’s amazing when his front bumper brakes the plane of your rear bumper, how you feel the car lurch forward, because there’s so much drag when they are side drafting you. As soon as I heard the spotter say “clear” and I felt that, that’s a pretty good feeling, I promise you.”
Busch held off Jimmie Johnson over the final laps to finish second, 1.8 seconds behind McMurray.
“He beat us,” Busch said. “Very, very disappointing. I gave it up. I had fastest car and gave it up. Sorry to all the guys.”
Johnson, looking to win his fifth straight championship, finished third to pad his points lead.
Denny Hamlin, second in points, finished fourth. He fell from 36 to 41 points behind Johnson.
“I’m happy with our day – a top-five,” Hamlin said. “You look at our average finish over these last few weeks and we’ve been up and down and some people think mediocre, but that’s been good enough to win the championship for probably two or three or four of the last four years.
“He’s (Jimmie Johnson) going to do what he’s going to do and run up front, we just have to do what we have to do and try to win races. I’m not disappointed at all – I’m proud of our FedEx team for fighting today. We started in the back, we came from the (Ryan) Newman spin in the front at the beginning of the race.
Not too disappointed and frankly I feel like he’s in our sights. He’s eight positions in one race in front of us and that can be overcome pretty easily.”
Johnson allowed himself to think about a fifth championship afterward.
“Tonight is a night that reminds me of the last four years and what made this team champions,” Johnson said. “I hope that tonight’s performance leads us to a championship.
“There’s obviously a lot of racing left. No telling what’s going to happen. But when we looked back, I hope we are the champions and I hope we look back and say that Charlotte was the key point for us in the championship battle. We kept our composure.
“I think in the summer months, the issue we had with the car at the start of the race and the spin, frustration would have gotten the best of us and we would have taken ourselves out of contention for a good run. Tonight the team stayed in it: I did, Chad did, Earl kept us calm, pit stops were there. Everything worked right and everybody stayed focused. I hope we look back on say it was a big night.”
Heading to Martinsville next week, only two drivers will be within 150 points of Johnson. After Hamlin, Kevin Harvick will be 77 points back. He finished eighth on Saturday night.
Busch appeared to be in good shape to win the race as he had a sizable lead just before the caution flag waved with 26 laps to go when NASCAR reported debris on the track.
What debris, Busch said afterward.
“I don’t know what the caution was for,” he said, putting himself in jeopardy of being fined by NASCAR. “You know, apparently there was a mouse that ran across the racetrack or something.
“And the restart, just trying to get going there, Jamie (McMurray) got a good restart, and I don’t know if he got pushed from Jimmie (Johnson) or not, but he had a good run, good momentum getting into turn one. Then I got there and my car pushed up to the racetrack and got to the plate and he was already gone, nothing I could do. Couldn’t even stay to his outside.”No Comment