Johnson takes over the Chase points lead
Jamie McMurray rumbled to victory in the Camping World RV Sales 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway in a relatively clean race, but one that ended under the yellow flag due to a grinding crash on the last lap that involved several cars.
Starting ninth, McMurray stayed under the radar for much of the race before making his move to the front. Once taking command on the 174th racing to his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. His most recent victory took place 36 months ago.
The winner drove the Cessna Chevrolet fielded by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He led 16 of the 188 laps.
Said the happy victor about taking the lead, “I saw No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) and No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) coming on the top lane, but the middle (lane) was the best for me, so I moved up and I got the lead. I’ve been really successful on plate tracks, and I don’t know why because I try just as hard during a race. I was just lucky to get into the right lane. I was shocked to get to the top and into the lead and once I got there, it was weird how the racing would shuffle into single file. The guys in top 10 were content as they knew they had a shot to win.”
Figuring he was a sitting duck on the last lap, McMurray said he was content where he was. “I would love to be able to put myself into the position I want to be in at the end, and I just wanted to race for it.”
McMurray’s confidence was high while leading as he knew he won here previously while leading on the last lap as a caution came out to save his day. “You never know what’s going to happen with these plate races,” he added.
With McMurray in front as the checkered flag neared, the majority of the field was running in single file on the outside line waiting for the last-lap action to commence. The action commenced when Austin Dillon stepped out of line and was tagged by Stenhouse with Dillon faring the worst when his car went airborne landing on top of the hapless Casey Mears.
The yellow flag dropped immediately, ending the racing action with the field frozen.
Chasing McMurray at the end were fan-favorite Earnhardt and talented rookie Stenhouse. Noted Earnhardt, who looked to have a good shot for the win, “I had a plan and planned to get a run down the backstretch with whoever wanted to go with me, but they got together behind me and we never got a chance to see what we could do. Good runs don’t come on every lap, you have to take the opportunity. But I am happy to run second.”
For Earnhardt, he chalked up his 22nd second-place finish in his Sprint Cup career.
In driving his Ford to third place, Stenhouse said, “We had a fast car all day and was in top-five most of the day. I was trying to time it to pull out of line coming off turn 2 and was hoping that (Austin) Dillon would block and then we could move back to outside because that was the preferred groove. When Dillon pulled out to block, we just barely caught him and turned him around. You don’t want it to end like that. All-in-all a great day but not happy with the way it ended.”
Fourth and fifth went to Paul Menard and Kyle Busch.
The second five finishers were David Ragan, David Gilliland, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer.
Chase championship leaders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth finished 13th and 20th, respectively.
In points, Johnson moved into first place four ahead of Kenseth. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are tied for third 26 points back with Jeff Gordon fifth 36 behind. Earnhardt sits in sixth 52 points in arrears.
Said Johnson, “We had a great car and led a lot of laps (47). At the end, McMurray decided to run at the top and took everyone with him. I was in the middle lane and it quickly became the bottom lane and quickly didn’t exist. I dropped like a rock but did manage to miss the wreck. 13th isn’t the best finish but what we are trying to do to win a championship, we did beat the competition today.”
Kenseth was frustrated with the outcome and explained his car had issues during the race and couldn’t get it into the proper lane as the race neared the end. He gave it his all in the final laps but couldn’t make anything good happen.
Dillon was subbing for Tony Stewart and had a creditable run going until the end. Said the young driver, “I was trying to go for the win but Stenhouse had a little bit of a run with Paul Menard, and I tried to go with them but Stenhouse hooked me. It was a lot of fun coming down to the white flag at Talladega; I was going to try and push Junior (Earnhardt) as he had a good car. They made a move and I tried to block them, but it didn't work out."
The Sprint Cup Series travels to the Martinsville Speedway next weekend.