McMurray steals the show

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 improbable comeback.

Denny Hamlin was fourth and lost more ground to Johnson in the Chase race.

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 and Kenseth.

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 GTX.

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.

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 140.391 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 34 minutes, 7 seconds

Margin of victory: 1.866 seconds

Caution flags: Nine for 39 laps

Lead changes: 27 among 19 drivers

Lap leaders: J. Gordon 1-7; Edwards 8; Ky. Busch 9-25; Gilliland 26; McDowell 27-28; Ky. Busch 29-76; Martin 77; Burton 78; Montoya 79-80; Kenseth 81; Bowyer 82; Carpentier 83; Ky. Busch 84-127; Martin 128-135; McMurray 136-169; Ky. Busch 170-173; Hamlin 174; Logano 175; Harvick 176; Biffle 177; Edwards 178; McMurray 179-188; Johnson 189-203; Ky. Busch 204-292; Sorenson 293; Allmendinger 294-298; Ky. Busch 299-313; McMurray 314-334

Sprint Cup points

With five races to go. Only these drivers are eligible in the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jimmie Johnson 5,843—

Denny Hamlin 5,802 41

Kevin Harvick 5,766 77

Jeff Gordon 5,687 156

Kyle Busch 5,666 177

Tony Stewart 5,666 177

Carl Edwards 5,643 200

Greg Biffle 5,618 225

Kurt Busch 5,606 237

Jeff Burton 5,604 239

Matt Kenseth 5,587 256

Clint Bowyer 5,543 300

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings Monday.

Up next

Tums Fast Relief 500, 1 p.m. Oct. 24, Martinsville Speedway TV: ESPN

McMurray steals the show 10/17/10 [Last modified: Sunday, October 17, 2010 1:26am]

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