Sunday, November 1, 2009

NASCAR Wire: Jamie McMurray Grabs The Win At Talladega Superspeedway

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

TALLADEGA, ALA. -- Jamie McMurray added his name to the victory list Sunday in a surprising finish to a typical race at Talladega Superspeedway.

McMurray, odd-man out in Jack Roush's compliance move to fielding a maximum of four teams in 2010, crept home the winner in a green-white-checker finish that only made it three-quarters-of-a-lap before a wild crash brought out a caution flag making McMurray the winner.

NASCAR rules allow only one attempt at a green-white-checkered finish and McMurray was in the right position at the right time.

Kasey Kahne was second, followed by Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, and Jeff Burton.

Probably the story of the day was sixth-place finisher and still leader in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus decided to spend a majority of the race running at half throttle or so in the back of the pack to hopefully stay out of harm's way and protect a lead in the standings that could eventually make Johnson NASCAR's first driver to win four championships in a row.

The strategy nearly backfired when Johnson began a move to advance his position about 25 laps from the finish. He moved up to 22nd by narrowly avoiding a spectacular, multi-car crash that put Ryan

Newman on his roof and ended the day for other contenders Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose. Both Harvick and Ambrose were among 25 drivers who led the race at one time or another.

NASCAR officials red-flagged the race after Newman's accident just five laps from the finish while safety workers righted his car and extracted the uninjured driver from the pancaked remains.

With the green-white-checker looming, the race took on that typical style of Talladega nail-biting.
It was nose-to-tail, three and four wide racing when another huge accident broke out as the cars came towards the tri-oval and headed towards the finish line. Cars went everywhere.

Championship contender Mark Martin was hit and flipped upside down on the front straightaway as cars scattered and spun through the grass and through the smoke on the track. The wreck relegated both Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya to finishes they didn't deserve. Both drivers were strong contenders during the afternoon and among the leaders. Martin wound up 28th and Montoya 19th.
It was a great win for McMurray, his first since the July 2007 race at Daytona, who led on several occasions.

It was also a win for points leader Johnson, with his sixth place finish. He never led a lap in this one but he dodged a million bullets.

This place is known for a lot of things…but mostly for its edge-of-the-seat, white-knuckle, heart-racing action over its 2.66-mile, high-banked tri-oval track that reeks speed and excitement.

Johnson, starting from the pole, led only three quarters of the first lap. At Talladega, drivers don't lead for long because the competition is so intense and the cars run so close together. The lead often changes half-a-dozen-times on a single lap.
For instance, in the first 20 laps, there were numerous leaders, David Reutimann and Casey Mears among them and those are drivers who aren't normally expected to lead races at Talladega.

You do expect the unexpected at this massive superspeedway and points leader Johnson, Tony Stewart, and several other Chase contenders unexpectedly chose to ride in the back of the pack to potentially avoid any of the troubles normally associated with running wide open at the front of the pack, a strategy obviously ignored by many of the others.

A two-car accident on lap five brought out the first caution of the sunny afternoon. Paul Menard cut a tire and gathered Joe Nemechek on the backstretch.

Cars started pitting under green flag conditions at 45 laps.

Elliot Sadler was the leader when the race was slowed again by caution when Kurt Busch spun wildly through the tri-oval.

On the restart, Sadler led with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his bumper. At 60 laps, Jeff Gordon was fourth and Harvick fifth. Harvick took the lead a few laps later. Earnhardt was still running second.

At the halfway mark at Lap 90, Harvick led with Earnhardt, Montoya, Martin and Ambrose in tow, flat-out, foot-to-the-floorboard.

Kyle Busch was next with Denny Hamlin seventh. Greg Biffle was running in the top 10 when the field made green flag stops near Lap 95 but a tire infraction during his stop forced him to make another pass through the pits which relegated him to 36th spot. He rebounded to finish fourth.

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