Jamie McMurray took his first win of the season at the Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega as a late race caution halted the plans of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
McMurray led 16 of the 188 laps on his way to his seventh career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory and his first victory at Talladega since 2009.
“I knew that we were looking good in practice,” said McMurray. “It requires a lot of risk to get the right line, but I was patient all day. I saw the 17 [Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.] and the 88 [Earnhardt, Jr.] coming on the top, which seemed like a better place to get hung out. I saw the 88 trying to figure out where to pass me at the end, I would have liked to have finished under green but to win is cool.”
McMurray had been controlling the late stages of the race as the leaders all took to the high line, with Earnhardt, Jr., who was running second, saying that he ‘had a plan’. It appeared that Earnhardt Jr. was looking to hook up with Austin Dillon in the #14, who was running in third at the time, to push Junior across the line for the win.
However, coming off turn two, Stenhouse, Jr. got underneath Dillon, tipping the Stewart-Haas Racing car into a spin before being collected by Casey Mears, sending Dillon flying in to the air before landing on his wheels, somehow avoiding collecting any other innocent parties.
“We were forming our run around turns 1 & 2,” said Earnhardt, Jr, who led 38 laps on his way to second place. “I had a good head of steam off turn 2 and I was going to try something but we never got the chance. We finished second to a very good plate-track driver, plus he’s got Hendrick power so it was always going to be hard to outrun him.”
The incident was one of only three cautions, the first coming for Tony Raines‘ engine expiring on lap 2, while the second came on lap 78 when Marcos Ambrose collected Juan Pablo Montoya in the tri-oval.
The lottery of Talladega failed to break up the Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson race at the top-end of the Chase standings, with Johnson overtaking Kenseth with just four races left to go.
“I feel that the race is forward now,” said Johnson, who now carries a four point lead over Kenseth, with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick a further 22 points back. “Its up to racing, not the luck issue of plate tracks. It took a lot of work to get where we are and we now just go racing. That’s what I’m excited for, it’s gonna be a dogfight to the end.”