BUSCH: McMurray wins delayed Rockingham race

BUSCH: McMurray wins delayed Rockingham race

ROCKINGHAM, NC - After a two-day delay for rain, Jamie McMurray led 192 of 197 laps in the No. 1 James Finch Dodge to win the Rockingham 200. This is McMurray's second consecutive victory at The Rock, and third Busch series career ...

ROCKINGHAM, NC - After a two-day delay for rain, Jamie McMurray led 192 of 197 laps in the No. 1 James Finch Dodge to win the Rockingham 200. This is McMurray's second consecutive victory at The Rock, and third Busch series career win.

Jamie McMurray.
Photo by Greg Gage.

"I feel very blessed to get in a car that is that good because you have to have a great race car to be able to have a performance like that," McMurray said. "It's unreal to have a car that good.

"If it would have stayed green the whole time, we would have been in trouble," McMurray continued. "The car got extremely tight. (Waltrip) is always good here on the long runs.

"When I saw the caution come out I felt a little more comfortable. The car was so fast, but the caution really played to our favor."

McMurray dominated the field flying by pole sitter Green on the opening lap to take the lead and then leading all but five laps of the event. His victory margin over second place Green was 1.908 seconds.

He would lead until a lap 118 accident involving Mike Wallace, Larry Gunselman and Shane Hmiel. Gunselman bumped the rear of Hmiel. The contact was enough to make Hmiel loose control and slide into the Pontiac of Mike Wallace. Hmeil's Chevy began spewing fuel, the mess red flagged the race for 9-minutes for clean up procedures.

Hmiel and Wallace both jumped from the wreckage of their cars and had a heated discussion about the accident's cause. The duo got face-to-face before NASCAR officials pulled them apart. As they walked towards the infield care center, Wallace and Hmiel again traded colorful words, this time in earshot of many live TV cameras.

"The media has made the young guns into superstars," said Wallace of the incident. "Everybody in radio, television, newspapers, they're the young guns, young stars. They can do whatever they want.

"They think they are invincible. They don't care if they wreck people. People keep putting them in rides. It doesn't matter how much they tear up."

Hmiel was somewhat less bitter about the altercation.

"I'm a young kid," Hmiel commented. "I'm not supposed to be as good as all these older guys who have been doing it forever. But I'm not too worried about it."

Wallace, for spouting expletives on live television, will most likely be called into the big blue trailer and fined by NASCAR.

After the melee, and the restart of the race, McMurray was once again leading the pack followed by David Green, Scott Wimmer and Michael Waltrip.

The No. 99 Chevy of Michael Waltrip seemed to be the only other car that could even keep pace with McMurray. Waltrip passed McMurray on lap 164 and led two laps.

A lap 165 yellow flag would send the field to the pits and McMurray would regain first from Waltrip. Waltrip would be one lug nut shy in the pits, and loose the race off pit road.

During this caution, Kerry Earnhardt decided not to pit and inherited the race lead. He led three laps before McMurray sailed by Earnhardt at lap 169 and never looked back.

Scott Wimmer in the No. 23 Chevy, who had ran in the top five and challenged McMurray all afternoon had to pit for a flat tire during the caution which relegated him to an 11th place finish.

With just 22 laps to race end; McMurray continued to lead the race when it went back green closely followed by No. 92 Chevy of Todd Bodine. At lap 178, the ninth and final caution of the day would fly when Chad Blount slapped the wall.

The race restarted at lap 183 and McMurray easily scooted away from second place Todd Bodine. Pole sitter David Green then followed McMurray and edged Bodine out of second place. Bodine finished third followed by Randy LaJoie and Jason Keller.

"With no more practice than we had and with a brand new race car, I know sitting on the pole was a big deal for us, but these guys didn't let me down today," said second place David Green. "What a great way to start 2003."

Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip who was running fourth, lost a tire with 12 laps to go, and in turn any hopes of winning the event.

With two events in the history books for the 2003 Busch Series, McMurray, a Winston Cup regular sits on top the championship standings, however McMurray is not running a full Busch schedule in the No. 1 Finch Dodge.

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