Jamie McMurray got the better of Kyle Busch at the restart on lap 314 of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte to lead for the remaining twenty laps and claim a third win to add to the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Starting from 27th place in the Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet it took the first quarter of the race for McMurray to fight his way into the top ten. Having complained the #1 car was really loose the crew tightened it up enough for him to start climbing up to the front at about two-thirds distance and in to second place when the caution was thrown on lap 308 for the ubiquitous debris on the track, or, as Kyle Busch speculated, ” . . . a mouse that ran across the race track or something.” Busch chose to line up on the outside of the track with teammate Denny Hamlin behind him, the high line being the better one all night, but come the restart McMurray got the jump on him, possibly with help from Jimmie Johnson.
Busch was not a happy man after the race, second place offering no solace to him whatsoever. Team boss Joe Gibbs spent several minutes consoling his driver after he climbed from the car but still Busch felt the need to apologise to his team. “He (Jamie McMurray) was faster than me and he beat us,” Kyle said. “Nothing to it but that. Just didn’t quite have it at the end. I gave it up two nights in a row. … I’m sorry for all the guys, I mean everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, everybody in the engine shop, chassis shop. It’ s my job to come out here and get a win for these guys. I’m the one behind the wheel …. and didn’t make the right adjustments and gave it up.”
Denny Hamlin, currently second in the championship, finished two spots behind the #18 car in fourth but ahead of him was the leader in The Chase, Jimmie Johnson, who extended his lead by another five points. Consolation for Hamlin, though, is that he led the race on lap 175, that one lap being the only time he has led a race since The Chase started five races ago. And in a good night for JGR, their third car, Joey Logano‘s Home Depot Toyota, came home in 7th place.
Jimmie Johnson’s night could have turned out so very differently after he spun his car at turn four on lap 33 and managed to avoid hitting the inner wall this time. After changing his tyres he restarted in 37th place but then steadily passed the field to reach the head of the field by lap 189. He was fortunate that he had a car which suited the long green flag periods as his car came to him on the long runs.
Another team which faired well at Charlotte were Roush Fenway Racing, putting their shocker at last week’s Fontana behind them emphatically with all their cars finishing in the top twelve, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth taking 5th and 6th, David Ragan, 10th and Carl Edwards two places behind him.
Jeff Gordon had a race to forget with alternator/battery problems costing both power and one lap and then earning himself a pitlane speeding penalty for the second race in a row for his too hasty entry on lap 295. His carelessness pales, though, compared to Ryan Newman in the #39 car who managed to get himself penalised three times in the one race for excessive speed exiting the pits!
Both Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin must be looking forward to next week’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, Virginia, the half mile track that calls itself the Pretty Paperclip and promises great racing and great hot dogs. Between them they have won the last eight races here, Hamlin the last two, although the wins currently stand 5-3 to JJ. And – if he can avoid another speeding penalty – Jeff Gordon is a five time winner here, the last of which was five years ago.