McMurray wins the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway seven years after making his Cup debut at the track
Jamie McMurray’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career started at Talladega Superspeedway seven years ago. On Sunday, his career might have gotten a restart at the same track.
McMurray held on over the final 11 laps to win the AMP Energy 500, his first Sprint Cup Series victory in 87 races. He became the first driver since Davey Allison to make his Cup debut at Talladega Superspeedway and then later win a race on the 2.66-mile trioval.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve won,” McMurray said. “I just can’t believe it’s here again.”
McMurray’s pass for the lead on lap 181 of the 191-lap race marked the 58th lead change among 25 drivers. The 58 lead changes ties for the ninth most in Talladega Superspeedway history and the 25 different leaders ties for the third most at the track.
Kasey Kahne finished second, followed by Sprint Cup Series rookie Joey Logano in third, Greg Biffle fourth and Jeff Burton fifth.
McMurray entered Sunday’s race without a top-five finish this season, and he is looking for a new ride as his four-year relationship with Roush Fenway Racing comes to an end after this season. He said that makes his victory in the AMP Energy 500 even more special.
“Certainly winning this race isn’t going to hurt my chances of making another team,” McMurray said.
McMurray gave much of the credit for his victory to teammate Matt Kenseth, who McMurray said helped push him to the lead and allowed him to stay out in front during the hectic final laps.
“I was really fortunate that it was Matt behind me,” McMurray said. “Matt’s my teammate and he’s also a really good friend of mine. He helped out a lot when it was two- and three-wide. He stayed with me, and that made it a lot easier.
“Matt put me where I was at the end, and then he kept helping me out. You have to have somebody behind you who is willing to help. And when it’s a teammate and a friend, it makes a big difference.”
Still, there were a few anxious moments for McMurray and his team during the final laps, when it became evident that McMurray’s car was coming close to running out of gas.
“Those last few laps were the longest I’ve ever spent,” said Donnie Wingo, McMurray’s crew chief. “We were getting close on fuel. We were sweating it out a little bit.”
Car owner Jack Roush was even more worried, saying, “My horror was that the car was going to run out of gas. I had to turn away and get off the pit box. I couldn’t stand it.
“Jamie certainly had a good car. It wasn’t a fluke that he won the race today. He had speed all day, and he worked with Matt and executed wisely on the race track. He deserved to win the race.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was mired in 25th place near the end of the race, but managed to come away with a sixth-place finish. That enabled him to extend his lead in the standings to 184 points over Mark Martin and 192 points over third-place Jeff Gordon.
“This isn’t Halloween. This is an early Christmas present,” Johnson said. “I did not expect that. I thought we were 20th at best, and we came home with a top-10.”
The 2010 Aaron’s Dream Weekend features qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, followed by the ARCA Series 250 race on Friday, April 23. On Saturday, April 24, fans will see qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, followed by the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. On Sunday, April 25, the greatest drivers in the world face off in the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
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