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Jamie McMurray’s dream season continues, as he picked up his third win of the season and his second career win at the racetrack where he was first thrust into stardom back in 2002 while subbing for Sterling Marlin. McMurray’s struggles at Roush Fenway Racing have been well documented, never finishing any higher than 16th in points and winning only two races. On Saturday night, McMurray led three times for 65 laps including the most important one. The win moved McMurray up one spot to 13th in points—the highest he will finish due to missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup—75 points ahead of 14th-place Ryan Newman.
"I talked to Chip earlier today, and we were discussing sponsorship and where this organization was a year ago, and how far we've come,” said McMurray. “To be in victory lane four times this year, and to have both cars run as well as they do, and to have the support we do from Target and all these sponsors now, it's incredible. And I just feel very blessed to be a part of it."
McMurray won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway JR Motorports earlier this season.
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson retained the points lead after a strong outing in the Bank of America 500, finishing third and leading 15 laps. It didn’t come easy, though. Johnson started 10th but had fallen back to 15th by lap 20. Things went from bad to worse when Johnson spun on the backstretch on lap 34. Johnson remained mid-pack for several more laps, complaining that the car wasn’t handling very well in traffic. Following a caution on lap 124 for a crash between Kasey Kahne and Sam Hornish Jr., Johnson stayed out along with several other drivers and was in the third position by lap 140. Aside from green flag pitstops, Johnson remained in the top five for the rest of the race and raced Kyle Busch for second in the closing laps before having to settle for third.
“ I'm so relieved,” said Johnson. “I'm glad to be sitting in here in third spot and leading the points. It's amazing what goes through your mind when you're sliding sideways on the back straightaway. I saw my hard work for the year and dreams of being a five-time champion go away, and fortunately I got the car turned away from the inside wall. At that point kind of scared me straight. Like, okay, just stay smooth, we can salvage a decent finish out of today. Maybe we don't win, maybe we don't be in the Top-5, but I know we can get a good finish out of this if we can keep our composure and we did.”
In one of the more bizarre stories of the night, Kahne apparently made a quick exit from the track after his contact with Hornish and was replaced by J.J. Yeley. Initial reports were that Kahne wasn’t feeling well and the team decided it was best for him not to continue. Competition director for Richard Petty Motorsports had this to say on the issue:
"Kasey wasn't feeling good, and we're trying to keep the car in the top 20 in owner points, so we put Yeley in there. We're thankful to JJ for doing that."
Speculation, however, seems to point to frustration, rather than illness, that contributed to Kahne’s early exit from the car. Kahne, who is leaving RPM at the end of the season for Red Bull Racing, was very vocal on his radio to the team regarding his frustration with the racecar.
Kahne wasn’t the only one with an eventful night. Kyle Busch had his struggles during the race as well. Though he led the most laps (217), there was a tense moment during the race where Busch radioed to his crew that the throttle was stuck. The problem eventually went away, but not without a lot of hollering from the driver of the No. 18. It wouldn’t be the last time Busch got antsy in the race, as a late race caution is what Busch felt ultimately cost him the win. Though McMurray was right on Busch’s rear bumper as the caution was flown for debris, the restart ultimately sealed Busch’s fate as McMurray out drove Busch on the restart easily cruised away from Busch and Johnson once out in clean air. A profanity-laced tirade flew from the cockpit of Busch’s racecar following the restart, including doubt that he could hold of Johnson. He did, and gained four spots in the standings with that runner-up finish. He is 177 points out from Johnson.
“Nobody can put it in perspective right now,” said a frustrated Busch after the race. “It’s very, very disappointing. Just had the best car all night and gave it up. Just flat out gave it away. It’s just really frustrating not to come out of here with a win at a track that I have yet to win at and have been so fast at and again tonight was really fast. “
Other Chase drivers that had troubles include Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and Kurt Busch.
Gordon night seemed to be promising with a good racecar, but unfortunately lady luck had other plans for the four-time champion. On lap 211, Gordon’s alternator apparently drained the battery and he had to switch to a second battery. He slowed dramatically on the racetrack and almost immediately went a lap down.
As if that wasn’t enough, NASCAR caught Gordon speeding on pit road with 34 laps to go. Gordon ended up finishing 23rd, one lap down. He remains fourth in points, 156 behind points leader Johnson.
“It was not a lot of fun,” said Gordon. “We had about everything go wrong that could go wrong. Track position being crucial at this place. I've never seen it so sensitive. We lost a little bit of track position and then we had the battery issue which took me a little while to figure out. I've never had that happen before. I've had them stumble, but I've never had them just shut off. So, it took me a few seconds to figure that out. We lost a lap; and then speeding (on pit road) and a tire coming loose; we had it all happen.”
Meanwhile, Kurt Busch’s day didn’t start out well at all. He started 15th and spun in turn four on lap 25. Things never got any better for the driver of the No. 2 Dodge, as he never ran any higher than 14th and ended up finishing 30th and three laps down. Busch sits ninth in points, 237 points out of the lead.
Burton’s problems began on lap 246 when he made contact with teammate Clint Bowyer and held the car sideways for several hundred feet down the backstretch until it final turned all the way around down on the apron. The car was filled with smoke and Burton drove blindly to pit road while the smoke cleared. Burton finished 20th in the race and is 10th in points, 239 markers out of first.
Next weekend the series heads to Martinsville Speedway for the Tums Fast Relief 500, where Denny Hamlin and Johnson have both shown a lot of strength in the past. With both of them only separated by 41 points, it could definitely be an interesting race.
So you can read race recaps at virtually any motorsports website on the Internet. However, what’s unique about Next Time By is we give reactions from followers of Next Time By on Twitter and Facebook. You are also more than welcome to share your own thoughts in the comment section.
Here are a few words from our Twitter followers on the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
Flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog s--t out of Hong Kong was more exciting than tonight's race. ~@WilliamCheerBoy
Wow William! Strong words! I guess 27 lead changes, nine cautions, and plenty of on track action wasn’t enough for you?
Good race! It’s safe to say 18 and 11 the 5 year window has started to Cup title, if they dont it in 5, they wont ~@shanbedd
If I’m reading your tweet right, you think Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have a five year window to win a Sprint Cup Series championship? I would imagine those two will be around for a lot longer than that and I don’t expect their talent to run out any time soon.
Thankful I had Football and Hockey to fill in the Boring Racing at times. That Track isn't exciting enough for a 500 Miler ~@Thummper08
I disagree, I thought this was a fantastic 500-mile race! Oh sure there were a few boring bits, but they usually didn’t last longer than 20 or 30 laps. That’s saying a lot compared to some of these races where we go over a hundred or so laps before we get a caution to bunch up the field. Plenty of storylines were available to peak our interest as well.
I think #DaleJr needs to find a new Career.~@Chris101679
Harsh, Chris, harsh! Sure, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 29th three laps down but at least he …. Well fine, so it sucked but at least he finished ahead of … Oh wait, no he didn’t. Well I mean it could be wor-- … Ah, forget it! Just blame Lance McGrew and be done with it!
Wish it was better. Cars seemed really strung out all night long. Great for Jamie, though. ~@HitYourMarks
I don’t think I saw anyone that was upset with McMurray winning the race. Heck, maybe they were just happy Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch didn’t win for once!
From what a saw of it - last 82 laps - the race was exciting and clean. Loved the battle between #jimmiejohnson & Kyle. ~@songduck
Yes, the battle for second between Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch was very exciting to watch. I’m sure McMurray enjoyed it more than anyone!
Chase just confirms that #JJ & team are the best. They overcome adversity & R more consistent. Appreciate greatness, folks.~@SteveTheOldMan
Would love to agree with you, Steve, but I think everyone is all “Jimmie’d” out.
Now, here’s a word from a couple of our Facebook friends:
Just glad my pick came through :) ~Jason Remillard
To be honest, McMurray wasn’t even on my radar to who I thought would win the race so kudos on that one!
The Nationwide race was better... I'm hoping the new nose on the cup cars in 2011 makes the racing alittle better. I didn't really get a chance to breathe in the Nationwide race... Cup had it's normal *yawn* middle section. thank Heavens for debris/one single beer can on track "cautions". I love seeing Jamie Mac win! ~Tim Sirlikesalot Kaufman
Not to sound like a NASCAR kiss-ass but couldn’t a beer can actually do some damage if someone hit it the wrong way? I’m not really sure I’d be want to running over one in my car, let alone at 180mph.