Kurt Busch prevented a Memorial Weekend sweep for Chip Ganassi by beating Jamie McMurray to victory in the Coca-Cola 600.
The Penske driver looked in control for most of the distance but it was the Earnhardt Ganassi racer who seemed to be heading to victory lane following the final stops for fuel. However, the eighth caution of the day broke McMurray's momentum while holding a two-second lead and gave Busch a final shot at victory after he had led for the majority of the race.
As the leaders pitted for the final time to take on two new tires under caution, a faster stop for Busch allowed him to jump the EGR driver and place himself fourth for the last restart. When the green flag waved, Busch quickly overtook polesitter Ryan Newman and then Hendrick's Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon who had stayed out during the final caution. Meanwhile, McMurray followed Busch's Dodge through and was just over a second behind him for the last 18 laps as he tried to retake the lead.
In previous runs McMurray had looked unbeatable on the long runs, and he was hoping that would give him a chance to give his team owner Chip Ganassi a second victory for the day, following Dario Franchitti's win in the Indianapolis 500. However, Busch was able to fend him off as there were not enough laps for McMurray to put his long run pace to effect, Busch becoming the seventh driver to sweep the Charlotte races in the month of May after winning the All-Star race last weekend.
"I thought about the Ganassi car behind me. He wasn't getting by us," said Busch, who dedicated the victory to Roger Penske, whose team came a few laps short of fuel of winning at Indianapolis with Helio Castroneves earlier in the day. To win the big 600 and the All-Star back-to-back... this is something that will be front and centre in Roger's NASCAR trophy case and I'm happy to deliver it."
McMurray had mixed emotions following the race, feeling happy with a solid second place that puts him only 26 points from the top-12 in the standings, but at the same time sorry for just missing out on giving his boss a second win in the day, after Ganassi flew from Indianapolis to watch his NASCAR team perform at Charlotte.
"I think we had the best car tonight," said McMurray. "Certainly on the long runs, we had the best car toward the end and that is all you can ask for. You can't win every time you have a fast car and the No. 2 [Penske team] put themselves in position and they were able to win.
Kyle Busch led the race early on but had an incident on pitroad with Brad Keselowski which caused some damage to the right front corner of his car. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was also penalised for speeding on pitroad but eventually bounced back to finish a distant third.
Jeff Burton confronted him after the race, complaining about an incident at the final restart which saw the two cars make light contact, Burton suffering a puncture that put the veteran out of contention for a good finish, having looked a challenger earlier.
Martin finished fourth, the highest he ran all race-long, making his strategy work after staying out during the last caution with Gordon, who finished sixth. Last year's winner David Reutimann ran nearly the whole race in the top-five, finishing a strong fifth for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Kevin Harvick was 11th in the end, recovering from an unscheduled green-flag stop for a vibration in the second half of the race. His finish allowed him to remain in the lead of the standings, as the season is now through 13 of the 26 races before the Chase starts.
Pre-race favorites Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson both had tough nights, the latter ending his hopes of a good run against the inside wall at the exit of turn two with a hard frontal impact.
Before that he had already hit the barrier once out of turn four, Hamlin suffering damage to his car as he tried to avoid hitting the reigning champion who moved down the track after bouncing off the wall, Hamlin forced to run over the grass through the tri-oval.
It was yet another tough race for Juan Pablo Montoya, who had looked strong in practice but struggled for balance from the start of the race, losing control of his car early on and damaging it against the same inside wall at the exit of turn two.
Johnson finished the race in 37th, one place ahead of Montoya, but dropped down to seventh in the standings.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Kurt Busch Dodge 400
2. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 400
3. Kyle Busch Toyota 400
4. Mark Martin Chevrolet 400
5. David Reutimann Toyota 400
6. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 400
7. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 400
8. Paul Menard Ford 400
9. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 400
10. Matt Kenseth Ford 400
11. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 400
12. Kasey Kahne Ford 400
13. Joey Logano Toyota 400
14. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 400
15. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 400
16. Carl Edwards Ford 400
17. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 400
18. Denny Hamlin Toyota 400
19. Regan Smith Chevrolet 400
20. Brad Keselowski Dodge 400
21. Elliott Sadler Ford 400
22. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 400
23. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 400
24. David Ragan Ford 400
25. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 400
26. David Gilliland Ford 398
27. Bill Elliott Ford 397
28. Travis Kvapil Ford 397
29. Casey Mears Toyota 396
30. Scott Speed Toyota 395
31. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 395
32. Greg Biffle Ford 394
33. Robby Gordon Toyota 394
34. J.J. Yeley Dodge 393
35. Kevin Conway Ford 393
36. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 375
37. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 364
38. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 306
39. Joe Nemechek Toyota 46
40. Todd Bodine Toyota 41
41. Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 37
42. Michael McDowell Toyota 34
43. Dave Blaney Toyota 25