Jamie McMurray scored his first win since October of 2010 winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Camping World RV Series 500 at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday. In a race that had the absence of a multi-car crash known as the “big one”, McMurray took the lead with 13 laps to go and thanks to only the races second crash on the final lap won under caution.
Prior to the final run, the race was a duel between Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Johnson led 41 laps, Earnhardt 38 and Kenseth 32. In the end though Earnhardt was second, Johnson finished 13th and Kenseth who faded late with handling problems finished 20th.
Pole sitter Aric Almirola led the field to the green and led the first lap. Jeff Burton was leading a second line on the outside and led the second lap by a nose. The first caution came out just as lap two got under way when the engine let loose in the car driven by Tony Raines just as the rest of the field was working along the backstretch. Many of the contenders elected to stay in the back of the field at the start of the of the race and had pitted for fuel and minor adjustments.
The green came out on lap 7. Almirola again led the way but Burton still held the outside. Burton was leading when the field crossed the line; Kenseth moved into second and challenged Burton for the lead. Behind the top seven the field fanned out three wide. On lap 10 Kenseth went to the high side but was left by himself. Kurt Busch soon caught up with Kenseth and the outside lane began to catch back up. On lap 11 Kenseth and Busch had marched to the lead as both slipped to the bottom. Greg Biffle took the lead on the outside on lap 15. Biffle and Kenseth fell in line and began to move ahead.
It didn’t take long for the pack to catch up soon Joey Logano was inching ahead leading lap 21 but not able to move too far ahead on the outside. The lead swapped back and forth between Biffle and Logano. Kenseth charged back to the front on lap 26. Logano was second, Brad Keselowski third. Behind the leaders the pack was again three wide.
By lap 32 the line in the front was single file, former leader Biffle was 14th. An 11 car lead pack began to separate themselves from the rest of the field by lap 35.
Marcos Ambrose led the start of green flag pit stops on lap 41. The lead group headed by Kenseth pitted a lap later; Kyle Busch came in and missed his pit box after being blocked. On lap 43 the remainder of the leaders pitted including Busch who had returned. The worst part for Busch was losing the draft. Keselowski was penalized and forced in for a speeding penalty. On a different pit strategy, Kasey Kahne who was 40th at one point, was the leader after the round of stops. It lasted only one lap however. The partisan crowd roared as Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead on lap 48. On the inside however, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson was on the inside and soon the lead was begin swapped back and forth. On lap 55 Johnson moved up in front of Earnhardt on the top as Kenseth led the line on the bottom.
Earnhardt and Johnson swapped the lead on lap 56 as Kenseth closed on the bottom. Kenseth moved ahead and retook the lead on lap 58. Keselowski, who had served a pass through penalty during the first green flag stops went a lap down on lap 61. Kenseth was dancing between both lines as he fought to keep his lead ahead of Johnson and Earnhardt. Johnson took the lead on lap 69 when Kenseth fell out of line back to 13th. He fell into the lead on the bottom line and was back into second by lap 73. Johnson moved down to block him and Earnhardt went to the lead on the top.
The first crash of the day and the second caution came on lap 79 when Ambrose broke loose in the middle of the pack just out of turn 4, he slid down collecting Juan Pablo Montoya. Both cars were done for the day. The leaders pitted as Kyle Busch got his lap back, Johnson led off pit road Kenseth was second. The green flew on lap 85 with Johnson low and Kenseth high. Johnson shot to the lead but by the time the field entered turn 3, Kenseth had slipped to the bottom to lead. Johnson was able to go back to the front when Kenseth slipped up to the high side and the side by side dance began once again.
Clint Bowyer made a surprising move to take the lead as the field came to halfway. Kenseth began to slip back as he complained that his car was getting loose. Up front Bowyer and Johnson were side by side. The field behind them was three and four wide. Earnhardt retook the lead on lap 101 and began to pull away. Bowyer had fallen back to 20th; Kenseth was 24th still complaining of a loose racecar. Johnson retook the lead on lap 108 while Earnhardt slipped in behind. Johnson began to check out on the inside as Earnhardt kept close on the outside. By lap 110 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slipped into second and began to battle for the lead. By lap 116, Johnson was the clear leader with Stenhouse in second, Kurt Busch in third and Earnhardt fourth.
Johnson gave up the lead to start a round of green flag stops on lap 121; none of those directly behind followed. The rest did follow on the next lap. Kahne was nailed for speeding and hit with a pass through penalty. Almirola was once again in the lead while Johnson had fallen to 17th. Earnhardt went back to the lead on lap 129 with Kurt Busch on the outside. By lap 132 however Johnson had made an impressive run back to the front and retook the lead.
Despite still complaining about a loose car, Kenseth had also made his way back to the front group. Back in the pack the contenders who had been hanging back began to try and claw their way to the front.
Earnhardt retook the lead from Johnson on lap 138. Kurt Busch was dueling with Earnhardt on the low side. Johnson moved down and took over second a few laps later. Kyle Busch had slipped into third and by lap 144 was in second. Kenseth had faded back to 24th.
Busch dove to the inside and took the lead on lap 148 after earlier falling a lap down. It didn’t last long as Earnhardt went back to the point a lap later. Gordon moved into second on lap 153. The field became single file and got ready for the final pit stop of the day. Earnhardt pitted from the lead on lap 162 starting a round of green flag stops. Danica Patrick who had been running inside the top 10, missed her pit box and was hit with a speeding penalty. Kenseth came in with 25 to go. When the lead pack reformed after the cycle, Kyle Busch was leading Biffle second, and Gordon third. Johnson was seventh, Kenseth 10th, Earnhardt 12th. With 20 to go the final battle began as the field spread three wide behind the top two.
Carl Edwards began to spar with Busch for the lead on the inside; he took the lead with 17 to go, Kenseth was up to third. Busch was battling back on the outside as the field behind the two was three wide. Edwards was dropped to the inside all alone and Jamie McMurray took the lead on the outside with 13 to go, Earnhardt fell into second. The top seven fell into line and began to break away with 10 to go. Johnson fell to the bottom but found no help as he began to fall back. The field has strung out into a single line back to 20th place as everyone waited from someone to drop to the bottom and make a run to the front.
Kevin Harvick was the first to drop down bringing Johnson and others with him with five to go. Austin Dillon subbing for Tony Stewart was in third with five to go. The inside line seemed to stall but with four to go the field behind the top 10 began to fan out. Kenseth and Johnson were side by side in 20th and 21st with two to go. On the final lap Dillon spun on the backstretch and was sent flying into the air after being hit by Casey Mears.
NASCAR threw the caution and McMurray slowed and led the field back to the checkered flag.
“Fortunately I was able to get myself in position,” McMurray said. “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 but when I saw the caution come out behind 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 right now too.”
Earnhardt was second, Paul Menard third, Kyle Busch fourth with Stenhouse fifth.
“We just never really got a chance to see what we could do,” Earnhardt said. “We had our run formed in the middle of (turns) one and two and we were coming off of (turn) two with pretty good steam when they spun out behind me. My car quit going because we weren’t being pushed anymore. We didn’t lose to no slouch. Jamie’s (McMurray) a great restrictor plate racer.”
Last May’s Talladega race winner David Ragan was sixth, David Gilliland was seventh, Martin Truex Jr. eighth; Ryan Newman and Bowyer rounded out the top 10.
Johnson and Kenseth swapped places in the points and Johnson leaves four points ahead of Kenseth.
“You know I feel that the races forward now are up to where the competitors go earn it,” Johnson said. “You don’t have this luck issue that can take place at plate tracks. So I am happy to have the points lead and we went through a lot of work to get there. “
Kyle Busch gained two spots to third, Harvick dropped to fourth. Jeff Gordon dropped to fifth, Earnhardt moves up to sixth. Greg Biffle seventh, Bowyer is eighth, Kurt Busch ninth and Edwards remains 10th.
The series heads from NASCAR’s largest track to the smallest with the running of the Goody’s 500 next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
“I think I have one of the greatest teams out here,” Kenseth said. “I feel like we can go everywhere else, and honestly we can race with anybody when we're at our best. Hopefully, we'll be at our best the next four weeks and we'll give them a run for their money. It was just an incredibly disappointing day.”