Jamie McMurray Wins NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race At Charlotte Motor SpeedwayBy Chris Knight
Jamie McMurray battled Carl Edwards on the final restart of the Sprint All-Star race on Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway to give Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates their first win in the 30th annual event.
Edwards, the pole sitter won the race off pit lane for the final 10-lap “all in” restart, but was unable to withstood a high-side challenge from McMurray in the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS to score his third win at the Concord, North Carolina racetrack, the first since 2010.
“This is an amazing race. I’ve been fortunate enough to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. But the All-Star race is different,” said McMurray. “When I woke up this morning, I was like ‘I’m just going to have fun. We were talking about the old days of the All-Star race when it was more laid back. It’s way more serious now. That’s what I told the pit crew – just have fun. It’s about having a good time today and doing your best. And fortunately we were the best ones today.”
Kevin Harvick made the pass on Edwards inside the final eight laps and attempted to catch his fellow Chevrolet teammate, closing the gap from over 1.2 seconds to .696 tenths of a second over the waning laps, but was unable to challenge the Joplin, Missouri native for his first triumph in the million-dollar exhibition event.
By winning the star-studded event, McMurray locks himself into the annual May event for 10 years until 2024.
Behind McMurray and Harvick, Matt Kenseth was third followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Edwards to round out the top-five.
Edwards in his No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion led the 22-car field to the green, but Kyle Busch took control of the field on Lap 10 and led until the completion of segment one.
While most of the field elected to pit, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry stayed out to start the second segment. Surprisingly, Hamlin would lead the first five laps under green, until Edwards reassumed command on Lap 26.
A lap later, the first incident of the night struck on Lap 27 as Kyle Busch lost control of his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry entering Turn 3 after making contact with Clint Bowyer. Busch would then spin into the path of Joey Logano, who struck the left front fender of the No. 18 as he slid down the track. Both drivers were uninjured, but done for the night.
The field would receive the green flag on Lap 31, but almost immediately go back under the yellow flag after Friday night’s Sprint Showdown second-place finisher A.J. Allmendinger made contact with Brian Vickers, which sent the No. 47 spinning down the backstretch. Allmendinger would ultimately finish 20th.
Meanwhile, Edwards led the field back to green, but it would only be short-lived as Kasey Kahne took his turn at the front on Lap 35 and led through the end of the second segment. Varying pit strategies would shuffle the field, but McMurray decided to stay out along with a small group of others.
McMurray in a contract year with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates would restart the third segment on top, but on older tires would be unable to fend off Kahne, who throttled forward on Lap 47 and walked away from the rest of the field to easily claim segment three.
As quick as the green flag waived for the fourth segment, a mechanical failure in Jeff Gordon’s car sent the No. 24 Chevrolet into the outside wall in Turn 3, collecting the Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr. and the Ford of Greg Biffle.
With McMurray leading, Kahne’s chances of bagging a million dollar prize would end with two brushes in the wall, ending his strong run with the sort of misfortune that has plagued him throughout the regular season.
Harvick, however, adjusted his No. 4 Hunt Bros. Pizza Chevrolet to the changing track conditions to muscle himself into the lead on Lap 76 to lead five laps to win the fourth segment.
Under the competition caution, the field would be lined up according to their average finishing positions through the 80 laps. That would be the order that the field went to pit road for the final mandatory four tire stop.
Stout work by the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team would rocket Edwards from fifth on pit lane to nip McMurray at the line to restart the final 10 lap segment on the inside.
The intensity of the event exploded when the green flag flew as Edwards and McMurray relentlessly battled neck-and-neck; side-by-side, with McMurray taking the edge at the start-finish line on Lap 81. Despite Edwards’s best effort, McMurray took advantage of the momentum to walk away from the field and earn his first All-Star victory in his eighth start.
Added McMurray, “Really, as a kid, that’s what you grew up wanting to do is to have a shootout like that and have a possibility to just race for 10 laps. And Carl got a little jump on me on the restart and I was able to hang on to his quarter panel. And I was like heck with it, it’s for a million bucks. If we wreck, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s still cool to come out on top of that. It’s a lot of fun. I have to thank Sprint for putting this up. My little boy, when he woke up, I asked him what he was going to do today. And he said he was probably going to play in his sandbox. And then he said, ‘What are you going to do today, Dad?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to race for a million bucks, Carter!’ It’s so cool that we were actually able to win and Christy (wife) asked him if his dad wins, what would he want. He told her, ‘A train.’ So Carter, you’re going to get a really cool train in the next few days, I promise you.”
McMurray’s 31 laps led Saturday night were the only laps that he’s ever led during an All-Star race. It was also the first win for crew chief Keith Rodden, who made the move during the off-season from Hendrick Motorsports and driver Kasey Kahne as an engineer.
Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski comprised the top-10.
Josh Wise, the Sprint Fan Vote winner stayed out of trouble and quietly collected a 15th place finish for Phil Parson Racing.
The next event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Coca-Cola 600 set for Sunday, May 25 live on FOX.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
Article Tags: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, CMS, Jamie McMurray, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS, NSCS, Sprint All-Star Race