With 38 cars jammed into a tiny 0.526-mile track, you knew it wouldn’t be long before calamity struck in the STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
And the first victim was Jamie McMurray, who up until Sunday had been enjoying a great season.
Around the Lap-100 mark, Ryan Blaney dove under Jimmie Johnson and nudged him slightly. Johnson got loose and slid up into McMurray, who was on his outside. The contact with Johnson caused McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to have a tire rub on the left rear.
Finally, on Lap 105, McMurray’s tire let loose and when it, the No. 1 Chevrolet went all the way around pancaking the wall driver-side first in Turn 3.
It was a vicious hit, and with NASCAR’s new repair rules, it knocked McMurray out of the race, since the car was not drivable after the impact.
McMurray finished the race 38th and last, which will be a big points hit given that he was sixth in the Cup standings coming into the race.
“I think the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) got into the left rear and it knocked the body on the tire,” said McMurray. “I was kind of leaving it up to the team whether we pit or not because I knew they could get a better idea of what it looked like and maybe where it was hitting the tire.”
When the problem subsided, McMurray thought he might be OK.
“It somewhat quit smoking, which made me think maybe the body had relieved itself, but then I blew a left-rear tire going into the corner,” he said.
And as McMurray correctly noted, he and the team were in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t predicament.
“It’s like a no-win,” McMurray said. “If you stay out and you blow a tire and you wreck, your day is done. If you pit here and you lose two or three laps, I don’t think you can get those back. So, we made the decision to stay out and ended up blowing a tire.”