NASCAR: Round 20 – Brickyard 400, Indianapolis – July 25

Jamie McMurray contributed another milestone to a remarkable year for team owner Chip Ganassi, adding the Brickyard 400 victory to the team’s tally of the Indy 500 in IndyCar (courtesy of Dario Franchitti) and McMurray’s own Daytona 500 victory at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Even just on the day, McMurray’s win made it a double for Ganassi, whose Scott Dixon also won up in Edmonton in a controversial IndyCar victory on Sunday. But just as that victory had a certain element of chance and good luck to it, so did McMurray’s at Indianapolis: it took a two-tyre final call and the sudden crunching exit of the strongest car of the afternoon to clear the way for McMurray’s victory.

Early on it seemed that any realistic chance Ganassi had for the win would come via McMurray’s team mate Juan Montoya, who took the green flag on the front row alongside Jimmie Johnson to get things starting. Almost immediately however there was trouble and the first yellow of the day: an early collision dragged in Sam Hornish Jr. and Reed Sorenson with David Reutimann, Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch also involved to lesser extents.

The half lap of racing had given Montoya the lead at the restart. Montoya and virtually everyone else opted to pit under the second yellow on lap 16 caused by Robby Gordon badly damaging the front of his car, and after the pit stops cycled through it was Johnson who took the green flag but was immediately usurped once again by a strong-looking Montoya.

Montoya was worried about a vibration, however, and came in early on lap 39 to have the crew take a look, leaving Mark Martin in charge of the race. Montoya was back in front on lap 52 as the other cars cycled through their own scheduled pit stops, before debris on lap 66 brought out a third yellow and resynched the pit schedules. Greg Biffle emerged in front with a flying stop, ahead of Montoya, McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick; but Jimmie Johnson was struggling, spending a long time in the pits and subsequently getting very loose and making light contact with Scott Speed once racing resumed. He was over 20s off the lead and by lap 91 was in the unfamiliar and ignominious position of getting passed on track by Bill Elliott and Marcos Ambrose.

With the race in a settled green flag phase, the top ten were remarkably stable, and Biffle was able to build up a good lead of nearly a second over Montoya, while the two of them were some five seconds clear of McMurray in third. Montoya took the lead after the next round of green flag pit stops around lap 100, which saw Biffle nearly hit Brad Keselowski on pit road.

Montoya was really flying at this point, pulling out a second and a half over Biffle and 9.4s over McMurray. But as the green flag stint wore on – finally stretching to 49 laps at a circuit where the average green flag period is more like 27 laps – Montoya started to experience handling problems and was also getting frustrated by lapped traffic of the likes of Ryan Newman. Montoya was probably relieved when the track went full caution for the fourth time for debris on lap 117, after some sheet metal appeared to fly up and hit Newman’s car in turn 2.

At the restart it was much the same usual suspects as the last time – Montoya leading Biffle, McMurray, Bowyer and Harvick. Biffle made a play for the lead but that only succeeded in allowing McMurray to pass him for second, and the prospect of a Ganassi one-two was looming.

But another caution for debris on lap 143 shook things up: at the decisive final round of pit stops, Montoya opted for a full set of four new tyres but had a sluggish stop dropping him down to seventh place, while Tony Stewart shot up to second place behind McMurray on a two-tyre strategy. Harvick, Martin and Kurt Busch founded out the top five. McMurray initially got a great restart, but Kevin Harvick was making his play and was quickly past Stewart and pressing hard for the lead. He had just passed McMurray when the sixth and final caution of the afternoon came out.

And the caution was caused by Montoya: the Colombian had been struggling since the restart and on lap 146 he got loose and found the wall, also managing to collect Dale Earnhardt Jr as he dropped down the track. The damage to Montoya’s car was terminal, and the long-time runaway leader of the race had a slow walk to the garage.

Now the field faced one final restart and a ten lap dash to the line. Harvick led initially but McMurray was quickly around him to take control of the race. He started to pull away, Harvick not seeming to have enough in reserve to keep up with the Ganassi driver as McMurray started to pull away. Harvick more than had his hands full keeping second from Greg Biffle, and the top three as a whole were in a class of their own.

Sure enough, there were no dramas and no late-race cautions: McMurray took the chequered flags and got to kiss the yard of bricks on the start/finish line, celebrating even as team mate Montoya rued the lost opportunity and contemplated how a victory can slip away in a split second. McMurray’s victory made Ganassi the first team owner in history to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Brickyard 400. And that it all happened in the same year just underlined the scale of the achievement. “I’m speechless,” Ganassi said. “I’m lucky and privileged to be in this business. I am honoured to work with the people I work with. I’m the luckiest guy on the planet.”

Jimmie Johnson never really recovered from those handling issues and finished in 22nd spot, right ahead of Jeff Gordon who had suffered a right-rear puncture while running in the top ten. It was better news for Kyle Busch, who had won the previous day’s Nationwide event: despite the damage sustained in the lap 1 accident he was able to run solidly for the rest of the afternoon and finish 8th, right behind Carl Edwards who overcame early overheating issues.

Race result

 
 	 	 	 	 	 	 	 	
POS ST  CAR  DRIVER             PTS/BNS LAPS COMMENT
1   4   1    Jamie McMurray     190/5   160  
2   9   29   Kevin Harvick      175/5   160  
3   7   16   Greg Biffle        170/5   160  
4   6   33   Clint Bowyer       160/0   160  
5   15  14   Tony Stewart       155/0   160  
6   10  31   Jeff Burton        150/0   160  
7   19  99   Carl Edwards       151/5   160  
8   23  18   Kyle Busch         142/0   160  
9   34  20   Joey Logano        138/0   160  
10  14  2    Kurt Busch         134/0   160  
11  3   5    Mark Martin        135/5   160  
12  13  17   Matt Kenseth       127/0   160  
13  24  9    Kasey Kahne        124/0   160  
14  26  98   Paul Menard        121/0   160  
15  18  11   Denny Hamlin       118/0   160  
16  16  43   A.J. Allmendinger  115/0   160  
17  5   39   Ryan Newman        112/0   160  
18  31  21   Bill Elliott       109/0   160  
19  11  12   Brad Keselowski    106/0   160  
20  28  6    David Ragan        103/0   160  
21  41  47   Marcos Ambrose     100/0   160  
22  2   48   Jimmie Johnson     102/5   160  
23  8   24   Jeff Gordon        94/0    160  
24  38  37   Travis Kvapil      91/0    160  
25  30  82   Scott Speed        88/0    160  
26  12  56   Martin Truex Jr.   85/0    159  
27  17  88   Dale Earnhardt Jr. 82/0    158  
28  29  00   David Reutimann    79/0    157  
29  43  132  Jacques Villeneuve 76/0    157  
30  25  77   Sam Hornish Jr.    73/0    157  
31  36  09   Bobby Labonte      70/0    150  
32  1   42   Juan Montoya       77/10   145  Accident
33  22  78   Regan Smith        64/0    135  
34  42  34   Kevin Conway *     66/5    124  Engine
35  32  83   Reed Sorenson      58/0    89   Accident
36  21  7    Robby Gordon       55/0    68   Vibration
37  39  164  Todd Bodine        52/0    59   Rear Gear
38  27  19   Elliott Sadler     49/0    55   Running
39  20  71   Landon Cassill     51/5    52   Overheating
40  33  87   Joe Nemechek       48/5    33   Vibration
41  40  66   Dave Blaney        40/0    20   Electrical
42  37  55   Michael McDowell   37/0    19   Overheating
43  35  13   Max Papis          34/0    15   Engine
* Denotes Rookie 

Sprint Cup championship

POS +/-  DRIVER                 PTS   BEHIND  ST  P  W  T5 T10
1   --   Kevin Harvick          2920  Leader  20  0  2  9  14
2   --   Jeff Gordon            2736  -184    20  0  0  10 11
3   +1   Denny Hamlin           2660  -260    20  0  5  7  8
4   -1   Jimmie Johnson         2659  -261    20  0  5  8  11
5   --   Kurt Busch             2658  -262    20  2  2  7  12
6   --   Kyle Busch             2630  -290    20  2  2  5  10
7   --   Jeff Burton            2615  -305    20  0  0  4  10
8   --   Matt Kenseth           2573  -347    20  0  0  4  8
9   --   Tony Stewart           2544  -376    20  1  0  5  10
10  --   Carl Edwards           2496  -424    20  0  0  2  9
11  --   Greg Biffle            2462  -458    20  0  0  3  11
12  --   Clint Bowyer           2446  -474    20  0  0  3  11
====== CHASE FOR THE Sprint CUP - CURRENT CONTENDERS ========
13  +1   Mark Martin            2384  -536    20  1  0  5  6
14  -1   Dale Earnhardt Jr.     2353  -567    20  1  0  2  6
15  +1   Ryan Newman            2299  -621    20  1  1  2  6
16  +2   Jamie McMurray         2295  -625    20  3  2  6  7
17  --   Kasey Kahne            2290  -630    20  1  0  5  7
18  -3   David Reutimann        2269  -651    20  0  1  4  4
19  --   Joey Logano            2241  -679    20  1  0  2  8
20  --   Martin Truex Jr.       2145  -775    20  1  0  1  4
21  +1   A.J. Allmendinger      2136  -784    20  1  0  0  3
22  -1   Juan Montoya           2121  -799    20  2  0  4  8
23  --   Paul Menard            2102  -818    20  0  0  1  3
24  +1   David Ragan            1939  -981    20  0  0  0  1
25  +1   Brad Keselowski        1936  -984    20  0  0  0  0
26  -2   Scott Speed            1926  -994    20  0  0  0  2
27  +1   Marcos Ambrose         1839  -1081   20  0  0  0  2
28  -1   Elliott Sadler         1799  -1121   20  0  0  0  0
29  --   Sam Hornish Jr.        1768  -1152   20  0  0  0  0
30  --   Regan Smith            1663  -1257   20  0  0  0  0
31  --   Bobby Labonte          1537  -1383   20  0  0  0  0
32  --   Robby Gordon           1438  -1482   18  0  0  1  1
33  --   Travis Kvapil          1394  -1526   19  0  0  0  0
34  +1   Kevin Conway*          1299  -1621   19  0  0  0  0
35  -1   David Gilliland        1260  -1660   16  0  0  0  0
36  --   Brian Vickers          1158  -1762   11  0  0  0  3
37  --   David Stremme          825   -2095   11  0  0  0  0
38  +1   Joe Nemechek           811   -2109   19  0  0  0  0
39  -1   Mike Bliss             799   -2121   11  0  0  0  2
40  --   Max Papis              770   -2150   16  0  0  0  0
41  --   Dave Blaney            662   -2258   16  0  0  0  0
42  +1   Bill Elliott           609   -2311   7   0  0  0  0
43  -1   Casey Mears            599   -2321   8   0  0  0  0
44  +1   Michael McDowell       508   -2412   13  0  0  0  0
45  +1   Reed Sorenson          493   -2427   7   0  0  0  1
46  -2   J.J. Yeley             491   -2429   8   0  0  0  0
47  --   Boris Said             399   -2521   5   0  0  0  1
48  --   Robert Richardson Jr.  249   -2671   3   0  0  0  0
49  +1   Todd Bodine            221   -2699   5   0  0  0  0
50  -1   Michael Waltrip        200   -2720   3   0  0  0  0
51  --   Terry Cook*            164   -2756   3   0  0  0  0
52  --   Aric Almirola          154   -2766   4   0  0  0  0
53  --   Johnny Sauter          154   -2766   4   0  0  0  0
54  +3   Landon Cassill         146   -2774   3   0  0  0  0
55  -1   Steve Park             129   -2791   1   0  0  0  0
56  -1   Jan Magnussen          127   -2793   1   0  0  0  0
57  -1   Mattias Ekstrom        105   -2815   1   0  0  0  0
58  --   Scott Riggs            79    -2841   1   0  0  0  0
59  --   Jacques Villeneuve     76    -2844   1   0  0  0   0
60  -1   Andy Lally             52    -2868   1   0  0  0   0
61  -1   John Andretti          49    -2871   1   0  0  0   0
62  -1   Geoffrey Bodine        40    -2880   1   0  0  0   0
63  -1   P.J. Jones             40    -2880   1   0  0  0   0
64  -1   Tony Raines            37    -2883   1   0  0  0   0
65  -1   Chad McCumbee          37    -2883   1   0  0  0   0
66  -1   Brandon Ash            0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
67  -1   Ted Musgrave           0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
68  -1   Brian Simo             0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
69  -1   Derrike Cope           0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
70  -1   Mike Wallace           0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
71  -1   Norm Benning           0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
72  -1   Jeff Fuller            0     -2920   0   0  0  0   0
* Denotes Rookie 
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