Chip Ganassi believes different tire strategies for his two cars at the final pit stop were key to his NASCAR team's first Brickyard 400 win.
Juan Pablo Montoya had shown the way from pole position for most of the race until the caution came out with 21 laps remaining, allowing many to go for aggressive strategies to gain track position. Eventually the Colombian got shuffled back to seventh as McMurray led the group of those taking two tires for the final sprint.
Montoya was unable to make any progress and even struggled to maintain his position, ending up hitting the wall with 13 laps remaining. Meanwhile, McMurray and Harvick, who both changed only two tires, fought it out up front, the Earnhardt Ganassi driver eventually beating the points' leader to victory.
Chip Ganassi said his team opted for different tire strategies for his two cars to cover all bases, putting them in the strongest position to win the race. While McMurray led the field on the final restart, Montoya was ahead of others taking four new tires.
"All the crew chiefs talk about is, what do you do with 10 to go? Four tires? They can point to the races where four tires have won, you can point to the races where two tires have won," said Ganassi.
"We were in the enviable position of running 1-2. A lot of times when you're running like that, you can do a split strategy so you have both angles covered.
"I was behind the pit stand. [Sponsor] Johnny Morris brought up to me, maybe we ought to think about two. The No. 42 was going for four. I looked at [McMurray's crew chief] Bono. I said, do you think we should do the split strategy here? He said, 'Yeah, let's go for two.' I said, 'OK'.
"That was the call. The only reason we could do that is because we knew the No. 42 [Montoya] was going for four. As a team, we had both strategies covered. That's the great thing about having a teammate."
McMurray's crew chief Kevin Manion said that despite him believing initially that a four-tire change would be the way to win the race, his only opportunity to aim at victory was gaining track position in the end. Right before the caution came out, Montoya had opened up more than a three-second lead over his teammate, showing he was going to be hard to beat on equal footing.
"We knew on that last stint there that people were going to take two [tires]," said Manion. "It's a fact. It's written in stone that, you know, maybe fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th, some of them guys are going to take two.
"If you are a leader and have a really good balanced car, it's hard not to take four tires. Greg Biffle and Juan were running 1-2, they both took four. That was their opportunity they thought to win the race. Our opportunity to win this race was to take two.
"When [team manager Tony Glover] asked me in the team meeting this morning, 'What's your plan today?' I thought, 'Whatever it takes to win the race' – that was our plan. Our car ran best in clean air. Traffic definitely played a major part in Juan or Biffle not winning."
McMurray showed sympathy for his teammate, who suffered yet another heartbreak at Indy, leading the most laps for the second year in a row in the race but failing to translate that into his first oval win in the Cup series.
"I would guess they're not shocked by what's happened today, because it seems like they've had a lot of bad luck," said McMurray about Montoya and his group. "I don't know what happened to him. Honestly, I didn't even know he was involved in a wreck until under that caution I saw him walking out of his car. I didn't want to ask what had happened because I was more concerned with what I was doing at the time.
"Yeah, I mean, that's hard on anybody to lead that many laps. This is a special place to Juan from winning the Indy 500, being the guy who can be the only guy who's won both those races. So, yeah, that's really tough."
Montoya's crew chief Brian Pattie took blame for the decision that eventually placed his driver seventh for the final restart, putting him on dirty air after he had spent most of the race running without any traffic at all.
"Bad call," said a short-sentenced Pattie. "Crew chief error. We should have taken two tires."