After four 20-lap segments and then a 10-lap Sprint to the finish, Jamie McMurray claimed his first win in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick finished second, Matt Kenseth was third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Carl Edwards fifth. It was a come-from-behind victory, of sorts, for McMurray, as he was outside the top-10 at the finish of the first segement of the 22-car race and was 10th at the conclusion of segment two.
Kyle Busch took the lead from pole sitter Edwards in the first segment and pulled away. By the end of the first 20 laps, Jeff Gordon was second, Harvick third, Kasey Kahne fourth and Edwards fifth.
Busch’s night ended prematurely though after he got into the retaining wall and spun in turn three on lap six of segment two (lap 26 overall). The incident also collected Joey Logano, also putting Logano out of the race.
The yellow flag waved twice in the second segment, with the second caution ending the race for A.J. Allmendinger.
After the restart from the Allmendinger incident, Kahne soon took the lead and remained up front for the remainder of the second segment. Kahne restarted the third segment in the eighth spot but quickly moved up through the field by cars that stayed out between segments and cars that pitted for only two tires. Within six laps, he was back in the lead.
After retaking the top spot, Kahne pulled away and claimed another segment win, followed by Harvick, McMurray, Bread Keselowski and Kenseth.
Kahne encountered trouble in the final 20-lap segment, though. Pit strategy prior to the start of the segmnet mired Kahne back in the field, and he was unable to get back to the front. He hit the wall just after the yellow flag waved to end the segment and then pitted several times for repairs. Gordon, Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. also had trouble in the fourth segment, as they were caught up in an incident soon after the segment began and all three suffered enough damage to retire from the race.
Harvick came away as the fourth segment winner, followed by McMurray, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers
Cars were then rearranged in order of average finish in the first four segements, putting Harvick first and Kahne and McMurray in second and third. Then, Kahne was moved back to 15th for pitting while pit road was closed right after the fourth segment.
Everyone headed down pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop prior to the start of the 10-lap Sprint to the finish. Edwards got off pit road first to restart with the lead, with McMurray in second, Harvick third, Kenseth fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth.
“This is just really an awesome moment,” McMurray said the race. “Its so much different than winning the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard, because there are no points, and I think the mentality going into that last segment is just all or nothing, and that was my thoough process. I am like, ‘I don’t really care if we wreck. I don’t care what happens. I’m racing for a million dollars. I get to start on the front row, and I’m going to make the very most out of the restart and everything that goes with this.’”
After racing Edwards side-by-side, McMurray took the race lead. Soon, Harvick also got by Edwards to take second and Edwards then lost a couple more positions, dropping back to fifth.
“It was awesome,” McMurray said. “It’s three or four of the hardest laps I’ve ever driven in my racing career, and it’s one of those memories that I hope I never forget. I have such a clear vision of those three or four laps with the 99 car (Edwards) being on the inside of me, and it’s what we wake up every single day and live for is to get to be put in that exact position.”
– Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images