TALLADEGA, AL – In the final laps of the Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Jamie McMurray was right where he wanted to be – in the lead. If anyone wanted the win in the Sprint Cup Series fall classic, they were going to have to pass him. Under beautiful, sunny skies, they didn’t.
McMurray, piloting a special “Auburn University” paint scheme on his No. 1 Chevrolet, was leading down the backstretch over Dale Earnhardt. Jr. and Austin Dillon – who was subbing in for injured Tony Stewart – in what was shaping up to be a dogfight to the finish. However, when Dillon was tagged from behind, he spun into the wall, bringing out the caution and securing McMurray his second triumph at NASCAR’s Palace of Speed.
“Fortunately I was able to get myself into position (to win the race),” said McMurray, who also won this race at Talladega in 2009. “I don’t know how the last lap would have played out because I could see the 88 (Earnhardt) trying to set me up and trying to figure out where he could get a run on me. Honestly, I wanted to see it end under green, but at the same time, I said if there was a caution, I would be okay with that, too.”
Earnhardt, who was a runnerup for the fourth time in his career at NASCAR’s Most Competitive Track, wasn’t sure if he had enough – even with the help of Dillon – to get by McMurray whether the caution had come out or not.
“I don’t know,” said Earnhardt Jr., who led eight times for 38 laps in the 188-lap event. “I had a plan we were going to get a run down the back straightaway. We were kind of forming our run around the middle of one and two and I think we had a pretty good head of steam coming off turn two and they got together behind us and that was that. I was going to try something down the back straightaway but we never got the chance.”
Stenhouse wound up third, followed by Paul Menard and Kyle Busch. Jimmie Johnson, who led the most laps (47), wound up 13th, but took the top spot away from Matt Kenseth in the Championship Chase. Kenseth, who thought drivers in front of him in the waning laps would make moves, now trails Johnson by four points after a disappointing 20th place finish.
“I don’t know why, but if you had five or six cars to try it you could get it back to two-wide, but just nobody tried it,” Kenseth said. “I did and it was dumb on my part because I can’t get enough cars to do it and just fell backwards (at the end).”
The only driver in the top five to make up some ground on the points leader was Busch, who now – along with Kevin Harvick – trails by 26 points. Jeff Gordon’s 14th place finish puts him 34 markers behind Johnson.
There were three cautions for 10 laps. McMurray averaged 178.795 mph in the race that saw 52 lead changes among 20 drivers.
From Price Mason / Talladega Superspeedway