CONCORD, N.C. – Jamie McMurray picked up his third big Sprint
Cup victory in his comeback season, beating all the championship
contenders Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
McMurray, winner of the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 this
year, passed Kyle Busch on a restart with 21 laps to go to cruise
to the victory in his Chevrolet. It came eight years after his
first career victory, which came at Charlotte, in his second event
with Chip Ganassi Racing.
McMurray is not eligible for the Chase for the Championship but
was better than all the title contenders to become the first
non-Chase driver to win a Chase race at Charlotte since the format
began in 2004.
Busch led a race-high 218 laps but had to settle for second
after McMurray easily passed him on the restart. Busch had to hang
on for his spot when four-time defending series champion Jimmie
Johnson charged hard over the closing laps.
“Nobody can put it in perspective for me; it’s very, very
disappointing,” said Busch, who was apoplectic on his radio about
the debris caution that wiped out his lead. He ranted about the
restart that allowed McMurray to move ahead of him and refused to
accept that second place was a decent day.
Johnson, who spun early and dropped to 37th, completed an
Denny Hamlin was fourth and lost more ground to Johnson in the
With five races remaining, Johnson holds a 41-point lead over
Hamlin. They go next to Martinsville Speedway, where Johnson and
Hamlin have combined to win the past eight races.
Greg Biffle and Roush-Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth
finished fifth and sixth, and Joey Logano was seventh. Kevin
Harvick was eighth and maintained the third spot in the standings
but dropped 77 points behind Johnson.
Zephyrhills native David Reutimann and David Ragan rounded out
the top 10.
On Lap 309, a caution came out for debris in Turn 1. The
top-five cars stayed out while the rest of the lead-lap cars
elected to pit for new tires.
On the restart on Lap 314, Busch led, followed by McMurray,
Johnson, Hamlin, Biffle, Harvick, Logano, Regan Smith, Reutimann
Before the cars made it through Turn 2, McMurray passed Busch to
claim the lead for the third time in the race.
Going greener: NASCAR will move from unleaded fuel
to an ethanol blend in all three of its national series beginning
next season. NASCAR chairman Brian France touted
the switch to Sunoco Green E15 as another step by the auto racing
series toward environment-friendly practices.
“This is the most visible thing that we can do to let our
partners and our fans know that NASCAR is taking a slow, steady
march as an industry,” France said.
The E15 blend is a mixture of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent
gasoline. It is a clean-burning, high-octane motor fuel, and the
ethanol portion is produced from renewable resources that Sunoco
will get from the Midwest. The blend will replace Sunoco 260
Dueling the NFL: Track owner Bruton Smith says NASCAR should push start times for
Sunday races back an hour to 2 p.m. to better compete against the
NFL. “If people want to tune in and watch football – and every game
seems to be about the same – by 2 o’clock maybe they’re tired of it
and then they’ll come over and watch a real sport,” he said.