Concord, NC -- In only his second career Winston Cup start, Jamie McMurray pulled out a victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway, fending off 2000 Winston Cup Champion Bobby Labonte. After a caution flag flew on lap 222, the leaders all decided to pit,...
Concord, NC -- In only his second career Winston Cup start, Jamie McMurray pulled out a victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway, fending off 2000 Winston Cup Champion Bobby Labonte. After a caution flag flew on lap 222, the leaders all decided to pit, with the exception of the #40 Ganassi entry driven by McMurray. He then led for the first time in his short Winston Cup career.
The 26-year-old leader dipped to the pits on lap 285 for his final pit stop of the day, seven laps after Labonte's his final stop. McMurray's Coors Light crew pulled out a fast stop and, after passing Mark Martin on track with 30 to go, McMurray was in the lead for the duration.
McMurray hadn't planned on being in Winston Cup until the 2003 season. During the Winston Cup Series stop in Richmond in September, Ganassi Racing announced he would join teammates Sterling Marlin and Jimmy Spencer as the third car in the Ganassi stables. Following an accident in Kansas, Marlin suffered a broken vertebra, forcing him out of the car for the remainder of the season. McMurray got the early nod and drove his first race for the team last weekend at Talladega.
McMurray, who began his rise to the top in the Craftsman Truck Series before moving to Brewco Motorsports in the Busch division, was as surprised as any at the win. "Chip and Felix have a first-class operation and gave me a great opportunity. They took a chance on me. I hadn't won in trucks or Busch. They put me in first-class equipment and I made the most of it tonight"
McMurray's victory almost didn't happen. Mother nature once again interupted plans and the race began three hours behind schedule. The green flag flew, as did the yellow at roughly 3:47 p.m. The upper groove of the track continued to hold a small amount of moisture, so NASCAR officials left the cars running on-track to help dry the damp surface and ensure it was completely dry for racing.
After running the first five laps under yellow, the full green finally flew and Tony Stewart jumped out to a big advantage over second place Mark Martin. Martin faded back and Jimmie Johnson took over the second spot. On lap 16, Johnson took over the lead from Stewart. He led through the completion of the first round of green flag pitstops on lap 66, before losing the lead to Kurt Busch.
Shortly after the second round of green flag pitstops, the #9 Dodge of Bill Elliott brought out the second caution flag of the day. Elliott's Dodge had a right rear going down. The outside liner of the tire flew off of the car, as did his right side window. Luckily, Elliott was able to keep the car off of the wall but the #9 suffered severe sheet metal damage. After making a pitstop for repairs, he was forced to the garage because NASCAR would not allow his machine back on the racetrack after losing his right side window.
Matt Kenseth opted to stay out under the yellow flag as Rusty Wallace, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among those to pit. Kenseth took over the lead and continued to hold the lead through the third caution of the day which flew on lap 151 after the #02 of Hermie Sadler laid oil on the track due to an ill engine.
The fourth caution flag of the day flew when Robert Yates Racing driver Ricky Rudd was involved in a single car accident on lap 222. Rudd's #28 slammed the outside retaining wall hard in turn two. That was when McMurray grabbed the lead for the first time.
The restart came on lap 228 and rookie McMurray held his own, fending off charges by the second place car of Labonte. Two laps following the restart, a 10 car wreck broke out when the #26 of Todd Bodine dipped low into the grass and then shot up and slammed the Dodge of Ward Burton. Burton's #22 car was pushed high into the #30 of Jeff Green. Green's car bounced off of the outside retaining wall, and havoc broke loose as cars continued to wreck.
Burton expressed his anger of the incident, saying he was forced to go low to avoid the high car of Green. "I had to slow down give him room, the 26 went under me. He hit the grass and slammed the side of me." To say Burton was dissatisfied with Bodine would be an understatement. "It's his responsibility to look ahead and think ahead. I can't do it for him."
Ricky Craven, Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Casey Atwood, Brett Bodine and John Andretti were also involved.
The race was then run incident free and McMurray dominated by leading 96 laps. Labonte finished second, with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart finishing third. Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace closed out the top five.
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Dave Blaney closed out the top 10. Stewart continues to sit atop the point standings and now holds a 97 point lead over second place Johnson.