With only three more opportunities to win a spot into the 16-driver Chase field, for much of Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway it appeared Jamie McMurray was on his way to doing just that.

Starting from the 18th spot, McMurray had the dominant car in the middle to late part of the 500-lap race. Leading a race-high 148 laps, McMurray had one of the strongest cars in the field, and one of the few that did not have to run the high line, the one which was preferred throughout the weekend.

As McMurray led the field to pit under caution with just under 70 laps to go, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard opted to stay on the track.

Restarting the race fifth, McMurray was never able to get back to the front and slipped back to eighth while Joey Logano took the checkered flag.

"That was definitely the best car I've had all year long," said McMurray. "It's just about putting the race together all at the right time. We had the best car, I thought, for the first three-quarters of the race. As it rubbered up, we just didn't keep up with it. It wasn't from a lack of effort. We were freeing the car up every stop. It just couldn't get the car to turn enough in the rubber."

Although McMurray won the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he is winless so far this year in points-paying events. Coming close to scoring that first and all-important victory Saturday night, McMurray said the Chase was more of an afterthought than anything.

"I have to be honest, I more wanted to win the night race at Bristol than I was worried about the Chase," he said. "The Chase, it's all about winning. That's all you want to do. I would love to be in the Chase, but if I don't make the Chase and win three or four races after that, I would rather have that, than just make the Chase and not run that well."

McMurray said being able to get off the top groove of the track was "a big advantage" over his competition and allowed him to make passes where others could not. Working on the line in practice, McMurray knew his car was not the fastest in that groove, but that is where it drove the best.

"I couldn't figure out why everyone was running where they were, because my car drove terrible when I got all the way up to the fence," he said. "It was making it really easy to pass those guys because they were giving me the groove that I wanted. At the end of the race I just couldn't make that groove work. My car just didn't cut well in the middle."

McMurray's 148 laps led was the most of his career, and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver praised his team for putting together a complete team effort.

"It was a good night," he said. "Keith (Rodden, crew chief) did a good job. Our pit crew did a good job. As a team we really had a perfect night. We jus weren't able to make the right adjustments when it counted at the end."