News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 25, 2010

McMurray gives Ganassi rare auto racing triple crown

Tom Reck
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Jamie McMurray put his name and his boss’s name in the auto racing record books Sunday, winning the Brickyard 400 for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Driving the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, McMurray became the third driver to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year. Dale Jarrett did it in 1996 and Jimmie Johnson had the double in 2006.

Car owner Chip Ganassi achieved a rare trifecta in auto racing, becoming the first car owner to win the two NASCAR Sprint Cup events and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year.

McMurray also finished second in the Coke 600 run the same day Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500.

McMurray started  fourth and led just 16 laps, including the final 11, to win after Ganassi teammate Juan Pablo Montoya again dominated the action only to fall short, finishing 32nd.

Points leader Kevin Harvick finished second in the race run on a warm day with Greg Biffle third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Tony Stewart fifth.

Montoya led 86 laps but fell behind on a late caution when he took on four tires while McMurray and Harvick took two.

Montoya then hit a safer barrier in the fourth turn and made contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr., forcing him out of the race.

McMurray took the lead for the first time on the 140th lap but was passed by Harvick on the 145th turn.

McMurray got back in the lead on the restart following the caution brought on by the Montoya incident and held off Harvick to win his fifth Sprint Cup race in 278 starts.

“It’s unbelievable. We didn’t have the best car. When Kevin got by me, I thought it was over … our car was a little tight. Ten laps to go, just do what you’ve got to do. I’m shocked,” said the 34-year-old McMurray.

Harvick said his car got tight going into the first turn on the last restart.

“I had to wait and Jamie was able to carry the momentum around the outside. I felt like we had a top-five car but not a winning car. We had the chance to win at the end and came up a little short,” said Harvick.

He will take a 184-point lead in the Cup points race over Jeff Gordon into next Sunday’s race in Pocono and is 260 up on Denny Hamlin, who replaced Jimmie Johnson in third place.

McMurray ranks 16th in the point totals with six races left in the Race To The Chase. “Winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 this year means more to me than [the Chase],” he said.

“We’ll need some strong runs,” Ganassi said on his driver’s chances to make The Chase.

Rain fell in the area early in the morning in the area but the track was dry at the start. The first caution light came out on the very first lap when seven cars were involved in a mishap after Kyle Busch did a half-spin exiting the second turn.

Debris on the track caused the other cautions until the Montoya-Earnhardt incident on the l47th lap.

Elliott Sadler was one of the drivers knocked out of the race as a result of the first-lap accident. “This is two years in a row where we have not made a lap,” he said.

McMurray’s best previous finish in the Brickyard 400 was third in 2003. He has been in the top 10 four times in eight races.

He became the 10th driver to win the race in Indianapolis. Johnson has won three times and Gordon four times while Stewart and Dale Jarrett each have won twice.

“It feels almost like a win, to be honest about it. After Happy Hour yesterday, I [thought] I was in a 20th-place car,” said Stewart.

“We really struggled with the DuPont Chevrolet today. Track position is so important here and we see that all the time. We had a good car at times but it was not good enough to drive up through there,” said Gordon, who finished 23rd.

“It was fun and what we needed. It was a good run and a good points race for us,” said Bowyer, who is 12th in points race.