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McMurray Brightest Of Sprint Cup’s All-Stars

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 18 2014

Jamie McMurray looked like a million in the final segment of Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)


Jamie McMurray held off Kevin Harvick in the final 10-lap segment of Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and went on to collect the million dollars that went to the winner.

Harvick finished second, .696 seconds behind.

Matt Kenseth ran third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Edwards and four-time Sprint All-Star Race winner Jimmie Johnson.

The final segment of the four-segment race started with McMurray battling pole-winner Carl Edwards.

“It was three or four of the hardest laps I’ve ever driven in my racing career,” McMurray said.

It was first-year crew chief Keith Rodden’s strategy, however, that put McMurray in position to win. After a pit stop on Lap 26, McMurray didn’t take four tires again until the break between the final two segments, and on that final stop, superb work by his crew got him off pit road second and in a position to challenge Edwards for the lead.

“Keith Rodden made some great calls tonight,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, a Sprint All-Star Race winner for the first time. “The call was really made in segment 2 (the Lap 26 stop for tires) for him to be able to win the race.”

That call enabled McMurray to get by with two tires or to stay out between segments until the final stop.

“Keith did an unbelievable job,” McMurray said. “He was a huge secret in the garage (as an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports), and I’m so glad that I get the opportunity to work with him. We’ve had good cars all year long. We had some bad luck.”

The race featured several wild wrecks.

Six laps into the second segment, Kyle Busch tapped the rear bumper of Clint Bowyer’s Camry after Bowyer blocked Busch’s moved to the inside. Busch took evasive action, diving toward the apron, when Bowyer’s car got out of shape, but Bowyer’s Toyota clipped Busch’s and the No. 18 spun.

Joey Logano couldn’t avoid Busch and plowed into the spinning car, knocking both machines out of the race.

“We had a good run through (Turns) 1 and 2 and off (Turn) 2,” Busch explained after the accident. “Kurt (Busch) got real bottled up on the outside and slowed down, so I knew I was clear to go to the bottom and swoop down and try to get underneath Bowyer.

“And when I did, he blocked me, and I hit him, and he got squirrely, and then I was still under him, and it hit me and turned me around the wrong way on the backstretch and got in the outside wall.”

Logano said he didn’t know what happened. He did know that he didn’t have a fun Saturday night.

“They were racing hard in front of me and the 18 car spun out there,” Logano said. “I thought he was gonna stay up by the wall and I kind of committed to running that bottom and I was trying to slow up as quick as I could, but once he started coming down the race track I kept trying to turn lower and lower and hoped he would go back up the race track and never did. I wish I had turned to the right and tried to get around him that way, but I was really thinking he would not keep sliding down like that and keep going back up the corner because it looked like he had a lot of speed still, but I didn’t get to have much fun tonight.”

After the subsequent restart on Lap 31, AJ Allmendinger’s Chevrolet nosed into the inside wall on the backstretch after contact with Brian Vickers’ Toyota.

On the opening lap of the fourth segment, a mechanical failure in Jeff Gordon’s car sent the No. 24 Chevy into the outside wall in Turn 3, collecting the Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr. and the Ford of Greg Biffle.

“It looked like something happened to Jeff Gordon,” Biffle said. “He got loose or something driving off in the corner and he took a big wiggle up the hill and the 78 was right on his quarterpanel and I was right on the 78’s quarter-panel so we just ran out of real estate there. I don’t know what happened to Jeff, but he either got loose or something happened to his car getting in the corner there. It’s just kind of an accordion effect, I guess.”

Kahne had two brushes with the wall in segment No. 4, ending his strong run with the sort of disappointment that has plagued him in points races all season long.

Edwards used the No. 1 pit stall to advantage, winning the race off pit road over McMurray and Harvick. Matt Kenseth started the final segment in the fourth spot, with Johnson and Earnhardt behind him in fifth and sixth.

Edwards, however, couldn’t keep McMurray behind him, and after watching replays of the battle, the driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was already second-guessing himself.

“Jamie just did a perfect job on the start,” Edwards said of fellow Missourian McMurray. “I had him cleared for a minute. If I would have pulled in front of him in Turn 1, if I would have gone high, I think we would have won that race, but I was just so reluctant to give up the bottom.

“He ended up sweeping around the outside of me, dragging me down, and it was a drag race. My hat is off to him. He did a great job. He earned it. I drove as hard as I could while he was on the outside and he gave me just the right amount of room to not wreck me, but still beat me. If I had it to do over again, I’d do it differently but that’s racing. You’ve just got to make the best decision you can and move on. It’s a really tough one, though.”

Runner-up Harvick attributed his finish to poor pit road performances and a lack of time to make up for them.

“I thought we had a really fast race car and we did all the things we needed to do to put ourselves in position on the race track,” he said. “We just couldn’t get it done on pit road tonight so we just didn’t make it happen at the end and ran out of time as we got to the closing laps.”

Despite a third place finish, Kenseth said he felt like he had a car capable of winning, but he simply ran out of time to race his way to the front.

“That last run was by far the best we were since we’ve been here,” Kenseth said. “We made some adjustments and had a really good pit stop. I felt like if I could have gotten up front, I could have held on.”

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

1. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 90, $1035734.

2. (3) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 90, $240716.

3. (8) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 90, $140716.

4. (6) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 90, $110686.

5. (1) Carl Edwards, Ford, 90, $105686.

6. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 90, $99686.

7. (9) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 90, $93536.

8. (16) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 90, $92536.

9. (22) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 90, $91536.

10. (13) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 90, $90536.

11. (18) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 90, $89511.

12. (15) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 90, $88511.

13. (20) David Ragan, Ford, 90, $87511.

14. (7) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 90, $87011.

15. (19) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 90, $86411.

16. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 77, $86136.

17. (4) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, Accident, 60, $86011.

18. (12) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 60, $85911.

19. (14) Greg Biffle, Ford, Accident, 60, $85811.

20. (17) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 30, $85711.

21. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 25, $84973.

22. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 25, $78181.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 100.517 mph.

Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 20 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.696 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 7 for 12 laps.

Lead Changes: 9 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Edwards 1-9; Kyle Busch 10-20; D. Hamlin 21-25; C. Edwards 26-34; K. Kahne 35-40; J. McMurray 41-46; K. Kahne 47-60; J. McMurray 61-75; K. Harvick 76-80; J. McMurray 81-90.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. McMurray 3 times for 31 laps; K. Kahne 2 times for 20 laps; C. Edwards 2 times for 18 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 11 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 5 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 5 laps.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 18 2014
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