Jamie McMurray won his second straight race, but the best celebration of the day was saved for Martin Truex Jr., who clinched the Busch Series championship in his first full season in the circuit. Truex Jr. started on the pole for the Bi-Lo...
Jamie McMurray won his second straight race, but the best celebration of the day was saved for Martin Truex Jr., who clinched the Busch Series championship in his first full season in the circuit.
Truex Jr. started on the pole for the Bi-Lo 200 at Darlington Raceway after qualifying was rained out on Friday. He finished fourth and secured enough points to win the championship with one race left on the schedule.
McMurray, who won two races this season in Chip Ganassi's #41 Dodge, was looking to give first-year team owner Rusty Wallace his first Busch Series win. He started 34th and roared to the front of the field, taking the lead from Ashton Lewis Jr. at the mid-way point of the race.
McMurray built a three second lead on the field but felt a vibration due to some loose lug nuts late in the race. He held off Lewis Jr. in the final laps for his second straight win.
"I was scared to death," said McMurray, who was joined by Wallace in Victory Lane. "(The crew) did such a good job in the pits all day. It was a really good day for us."
Truex Jr. complained about a loose condition early in the race and dropped back to 10th during the first 50 laps of the race. The crew worked on his set-up and Truex Jr. battled back into the top-5.
Lewis Jr. finished a season-high second in his family-owned Chevrolet while Mike Bliss and Cup regular Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five. Johnny Sauter was running in the top-5 in the closing laps before pitting with a flat tire with five laps to go.
"We really had the best car at the end there," said Lewis, who has been tabbed to pilot the #25 Marines Ford in 2005. "We had a legitimate shot to win this race. We want to win so bad. One more (lap) left and we think we would have had a shot at it."
Kyle Busch, who came into the race 161 points behind in the standings and the only driver that had a chance to wrestle the championship away from Truex, led 12 laps before watching his championship hopes slip away when he spun and hit the wall with 48 laps left in the race.
Busch had stayed out during an earlier caution electing for track position over new tires. The strategy backfired and Busch was passed by several cars with fresher tires. The team was getting ready to come in for new tires when he crashed and caused heavy damage to the back end of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.
It was Busch's second incident of the day after hitting the back of Ron Hornaday Jr. on lap 28. Busch and Greg Biffle were closing on Hornaday going into Turn 2. Busch got into the back of Hornaday, who collected the car and then seemed to have trouble accelerating down the backstretch. Busch plowed into the back of Hornaday.
Biffle, who suffered enough damage to take him out of the race, felt that Hornaday hit the brakes to retaliate on Busch.
"The guy has zero talent -- zero ability," a frustrated Biffle said in the garage. "The 5 had a run on him two or three times down the front stretch. The 5 kind of got into him because he ran the 5 down on the apron and then brake-checked him right in the middle of the corner and wrecked us all. That just takes absolutely zero class to do that. It's just ridiculous. I hope the penalize him or park him for the last race of the season. Stuff like that can't be tolerated. That's not even close to being a race car driver. I don't understand it."
Hornaday said the move was unintentional.
"By the time I got gathered back up, I completely missed the gas pedal," said Hornaday, who finished 27th. "It was no big deal."
Busch finished 33rd in the race and second in the championship standings.
"There was so many different ways we could have played it," said a dejected Busch after the race. "It was just a terrible day for us. We can look at it as the pressure is off -- we're going to finish second. I'm proud of this team -- they do everything for me that they can."