INDIANAPOLIS — Jamie McMurray followed teammate Juan Montoya around and around historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, almost resigned to settling for second.
McMurray had already won one big race this year and as a firm believer in fate, he figured Sunday's Brickyard 400 was Montoya's chance to celebrate.
It didn't play out that way.
Not even close.
Montoya suffered a heartbreaking defeat for the second consecutive year at Indy, opening the door for McMurray to become just the third driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup history to win the Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500 in the same year.
"I really believe that this was Juan's weekend," a sympathetic McMurray said. "I'm looking with 15 or 20 laps to go and Juan is leading — not that I was content — but, if this is the way it's supposed to be, then that's just the way it is."
Chip Ganassi became the first team owner to win the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 in a career — and has won them all in 2010, with Dario Franchitti taking the Indy 500.
Pit strategy sunk Montoya, who started on the pole and led 86 of 160 laps but finished 32nd.
A late caution for debris sent the field to pit road with Montoya ahead as crew chief Brian Pattie called for a four-tire stop. McMurray crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion went for a two-tire stop in what Ganassi called a "split strategy" that would ensure the organization would benefit one way or another.
As six cars, led by McMurray, beat Montoya off pit road, the Colombian immediately questioned the choice with 18 laps left.
He vented over his radio how difficult it was to pass in traffic, and he lost a few more spots. Trying hard to get back to the front, he lost control of his Chevrolet and hit the outside Turn 4 wall hard before bouncing into Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car. Montoya drove his battered car directly to the garage and did not comment as he left the track.
"We had a rough day. Great car and great team effort. Nice to see the (No.) 1 car win. I know it means a lot for Chip," he later posted on his Twitter page.
A year ago, he led 116 laps before a late speeding penalty cost him the victory. Pattie took the blame this time.
"Bad call," he said. "Crew chief error. We should have taken two tires."
McMurray won for the second time this year — at the biggest and, to some, the second-biggest events in NASCAR. Not bad for a guy dropped last year by Roush-Fenway Racing, which had to let somebody go to meet the series' new four-car maximum.
"The guy that's got to feel like an idiot tonight has to be Jack Roush," Ganassi-Earnhardt team co-owner Felix Sabates said. "He's the one that let him go."
Points leader Kevin Harvick slid past McMurray for the lead right before the caution came out for Montoya, but McMurray reclaimed the lead on the restart with 11 laps left.
Harvick finished second for Richard Childress Racing. Greg Biffle was third in a Ford for Roush-Fenway in front of an estimated 140,000 — empty seats were plentiful as attendance continued its steady fall from an estimated 270,000 in 2007.
NOTABLE: Team owner Rick Hendrick said he'll honor Mark Martin's deal to drive the No. 5 Chevy in 2011 amid speculation that Martin would move aside for Kasey Kahne. … NASCAR CEO Brian France said the 2011 Cup schedule is in its "final throes" and that it will have a very different look. A second race at Las Vegas and/or Kansas, and a race at Kentucky Speedway are all possibilities.