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McMurray wins messy Talladega race

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, November 01, 2009

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(Left to right) Richard Brickhouse, winner of the first race at Talladega in 1969, congratulates Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 IRWIN Marathon Ford, after McMurray won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
Jamie McMurray added his name to the victory list Sunday in a surprising finish to a typical race at Talladega Superspeedway.

McMurray, odd-man out in Jack Roush's compliance move to fielding a maximum of four teams in 2010, crept home the winner in a green-white-checker finish that only made it three-quarters-of-a-lap before a wild crash brought out a caution flag making McMurray the winner.

NASCAR rules allow only one attempt at a green-white-checkered finish and McMurray was in the right position at the right time.

Kasey Kahne was second, followed by Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, and Jeff Burton.

Probably the story of the day was sixth-place finisher and still leader in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus decided to spend a majority of the race running at half throttle or so in the back of the pack to hopefully stay out of harm's way and protect a lead in the standings that could eventually make Johnson NASCAR's first driver to win four championships in a row.

The strategy nearly backfired when Johnson began a move to advance his position about 25 laps from the finish. He moved up to 22nd by narrowly avoiding a spectacular, multi-car crash that put Ryan

Newman on his roof and ended the day for other contenders Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose. Both Harvick and Ambrose were among 25 drivers who led the race at one time or another.

NASCAR officials red-flagged the race after Newman's accident just five laps from the finish while safety workers righted his car and extracted the uninjured driver from the pancaked remains.

With the green-white-checker looming, the race took on that typical style of Talladega nail-biting.
It was nose-to-tail, three and four wide racing when another huge accident broke out as the cars came towards the tri-oval and headed towards the finish line. Cars went everywhere.

Championship contender Mark Martin was hit and flipped upside down on the front straightaway as cars scattered and spun through the grass and through the smoke on the track. The wreck relegated both Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya to finishes they didn't deserve. Both drivers were strong contenders during the afternoon and among the leaders. Martin wound up 28th and Montoya 19th.
It was a great win for McMurray, his first since the July 2007 race at Daytona, who led on several occasions.

It was also a win for points leader Johnson, with his sixth place finish. He never led a lap in this one but he dodged a million bullets.

This place is known for a lot of thingsā€¦but mostly for its edge-of-the-seat, white-knuckle, heart-racing action over its 2.66-mile, high-banked tri-oval track that reeks speed and excitement.

Johnson, starting from the pole, led only three quarters of the first lap. At Talladega, drivers don't lead for long because the competition is so intense and the cars run so close together. The lead often changes half-a-dozen-times on a single lap.
For instance, in the first 20 laps, there were numerous leaders, David Reutimann and Casey Mears among them and those are drivers who aren't normally expected to lead races at Talladega.

You do expect the unexpected at this massive superspeedway and  points leader Johnson, Tony Stewart, and several other Chase contenders unexpectedly chose to ride in the back of the pack to potentially avoid any of the troubles normally associated with running wide open at the front of the pack, a strategy obviously ignored by many of the others.

A two-car accident on lap five brought out the first caution of the sunny afternoon. Paul Menard cut a tire and gathered Joe Nemechek on the backstretch.

Cars started pitting under green flag conditions at 45 laps.

Elliot Sadler was the leader when the race was slowed again by caution when Kurt Busch spun wildly through the tri-oval.

On the restart, Sadler led with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his bumper. At 60 laps, Jeff Gordon was fourth and Harvick fifth. Harvick took the lead a few laps later. Earnhardt was still running second.

At the halfway mark at Lap 90, Harvick led with Earnhardt, Montoya, Martin and Ambrose in tow, flat-out, foot-to-the-floorboard.

Kyle Busch was next with Denny Hamlin seventh. Greg Biffle was running in the top 10 when the field made green flag stops near Lap 95 but a tire infraction during his stop forced him to make another pass through the pits which relegated him to 36th spot. He rebounded to finish fourth.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 22 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Irwin Marathon Saw Blades 195/10 191 Running
2 11 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 175/5 191 Running
3 20 20 Joey Logano * Toyota Home Depot 170/5 191 Running
4 8 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M Filtrete 160/0 191 Running
5 18 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 160/5 191 Running
6 1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 150/0 191 Running
7 33 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 151/5 191 Running
8 36 09 Brad Keselowski Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 147/5 191 Running
9 26 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Stanley 143/5 191 Running
10 37 171 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 134/0 191 Running
11 24 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy "Get on the 88" / National Guard 135/5 191 Running
12 15 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 127/0 191 Running
13 12 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 129/5 191 Running
14 10 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 126/5 191 Running
15 13 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 123/5 191 Running
16 29 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge Liberty Medical 115/0 191 Running
17 28 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 112/0 191 Running
18 41 36 Robert Richardson Jr. Toyota Mahindra Tractors 109/0 191 Running
19 5 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 111/5 191 Running
20 3 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 108/5 191 Running
21 21 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 105/5 191 Running
22 30 12 David Stremme Dodge Penske Racing 102/5 191 Running
23 35 34 John Andretti Chevrolet Window World 99/5 191 Running
24 14 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Dewalt 91/0 191 Running
25 19 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 93/5 191 Running
26 16 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 90/5 191 Running
27 38 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 82/0 190 Accident
28 2 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Pop-Tarts / Carquest 84/5 190 Accident
29 42 113 Max Papis * Toyota GEICO 76/0 190 Running
30 6 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 78/5 189 Accident
31 23 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 75/5 189 Accident
32 34 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Jim Beam 72/5 189 Accident
33 25 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Hunt Brothers Pizza 64/0 189 Running
34 17 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Clorox / Kingsford / Little Debbie 66/5 188 Running
35 4 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 63/5 183 Accident
36 7 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 60/5 183 Accident
37 31 96 Erik Darnell Ford Academy Sports + Outdoors 52/0 167 Running
38 9 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 54/5 137 Engine
39 43 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 46/0 99 Engine
40 27 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 43/0 44 Engine
41 40 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 40/0 12 Vibration
42 32 98 Paul Menard Ford Zecol / Menards 37/0 4 Accident
43 39 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 34/0 4 Accident

* Denotes Rookie

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