Jamie McMurray‘s turnaround season just became a ton better. With Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in the final steps of a rebuilding process, McMurray has stuck with the team through thick and thin.
McMurray locked up his seventh career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at the Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon during the Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega. He was able to lead the final portion of the race as the field became single file, giving McMurray the opportunity to stay out front. The best part of seeing McMurray break his 100+ race win-less streak had to be seeing him cry in victory lane with his children in hand.
For some reason, the field waited until the final lap to spread out of the single-file line which caused chaos amongst the field. Austin Dillon attempted to make a move around Dale Earnhardt Jr. and McMurray coming off of turn two for the final time but got loose off of the corner. Dillon was sent spinning and went back up the race track where Casey Mears slammed into him, sending Dillon’s car in the air. Once that wreck occurred, NASCAR questionably threw out the caution flag which ended the race instead of enabling the drivers in front of the wreck to race to the finish.
Earnhardt Jr. was able to finish in the second position at Talladega for the fourth time in his career. Paul Menard was able to survive the final wreck to finish in the third position. Kyle Busch rebounded from a pit road mistake early in the race to finish fourth after having a vicious hit in the final lap of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ended the day with his best career finish of fifth. Stenhouse Jr. was able to lead six laps, giving him the confidence to end the season on a high note.
The Front Row Motorsports tandem of David Ragan and David Gilliland were together at the finish once again. However, this time they finished sixth and seventh instead of first and second.
The points battle became even more exciting once the checkered flag was waved at Talladega. Jimmie Johnson lost the draft late in the going after dominating the race, leading 47 laps, but Johnson was able to finish 13th as he took over the points lead from Matt Kenseth. Kenseth also led a good chunk of the race, leading 32 laps in his No. 20 Toyota. However, Kenseth slipped back towards the end of the race where he finished 20th and is now four points behind Johnson. Busch was able to capitalize on the points leaders’ troubles as he is now just 25 points behind in the championship battle.
Jeff Gordon basically blew his opportunity to gain some championship points. Since Talladega is one of his better tracks, most believed that Gordon would be able to gain some points. Now, Gordon is too far back to contend for a championship unless he miraculously wins two of the final four events. Kevin Harvick only finished one spot ahead of Johnson as he’s just one point behind Busch for third.
Michael McDowell had a solid top-15 finish in his No. 98 Ford. McDowell had his first career top-10 finish during the Daytona 500 as his team is finally letting him run some full races. Travis Kvapil was able to earn a top-20 after being arrested a few weeks ago. A total of 27 cars finished on the lead lap with 38 cars running at the finish. Pole sitter, Aric Almirola, finished in the 21st position after leading eight laps. Danica Patrick was on her way to having a very strong finish, but she went approximately double the amount of the pit road speeding limit as she couldn’t get her No. 10 Chevrolet slowed down.
On a high note, there were 20 different leaders throughout the day for a total of 50 lead changes. Though there wasn’t a “big one,” the drama surely did pick up after the final set of pit stops with a little more than 20 laps to go.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.