Jamie McMurray claimed victory in the Brickyard 400, helping Chip Ganassi become the first team owner to claim America's triple crown, following Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 wins.
McMurray's teammate Juan Pablo Montoya had been the driver to beat for most of the race, even recovering from an unscheduled stop due to a faulty tire in the early going. The Colombian looked on course for a certain second win at Indianapolis, following his 2000 Indy 500 triumph, before a late caution with 22 laps remaining opened the window to different tire strategies.
Montoya took a full new set of Goodyears on his No. 42 Chevrolet, his team hoping to make the most out of their superior performance, while McMurray, who was second at the time, led a group of cars that opted to change right-side tires only. The move allowed him to jump up front for the restart, although three laps later Kevin Harvick passed him, right after the final caution came out as Montoya hit the wall.
The former Indianapolis 500 winner was trying to recover following a poor restart and then lost control of his car, making then contact with Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr. But although Ganassi lost one of his winning cards, McMurray charged back to reclaim the lead from Harvick after the final restart, pulling away from the Richard Childress racer who had to fend off Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle in the end.
McMurray drove unchallenged for the last few laps to take his second victory of the season and become only the third driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' history to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, arguably NASCAR's two premiere events.
"Honestly, when Juan was leading and I was in second, and I am a big believer in fate and I just thought this is the way it's meant to be," said McMurray. "I thought well I won the [Daytona] 500 and Dario [Franchitti] won the [Indianapolis] 500 and then Juan is going to win this race.
"I really thought this was his day, but it just shows you that you never give up and you just drive your heart out every lap. I am just shocked that we won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 500 in the same year. It's been an unbelievable year."
McMurray's victory not only made Ganassi the first team owner in history to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, but meant his team took all those wins in the same year.
"I'm speechless," Ganassi said. "I'm lucky and privileged to be in this business. I am honored to work with the people I work with. That is all I can tell you. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. You wouldn't dare dream this, you wouldn't dare to dream this kind of year. That is the kind of year it has been."
Behind McMurray, Harvick was able to keep second from a recovering Biffle, who had taken on four new tyres on the final stop. The Roush Fenway driver looked at one point to be the pacesetter, passing Montoya for the lead on lap 64 after the Ganassi driver had to anticipate his second pitstop due to a problem with the right-front tire. However, he would lose it in the next round of stops, where he had contact with Penske's Brad Keselowski on pit road and Montoya's crew performed a good four-tire change and fuel top-up. He would attack the EGR driver again but was unable to reclaim the lead after that.
"We had the fastest car, but the fastest car doesn't always win," said Biffle. "We've just got to take some chances to win some of these races, I guess. Taking chances with two tires, I guess, is what we've got to try.
"It's just that these racecars are hard to pass on this track. It seemed like the guy that got out front had a big advantage and we needed to be out front. We had a good car. I was way faster than Harvick, but just couldn't get by him."
Behind Biffle in fourth was Harvick's teammate Kevin Harvick, followed by Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton, making it four ECR engines in the top six, as the Childress cars share the same powerplants with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Carl Edwards recovered from an early stop for an overheating Roush Fenway Ford to finish seventh ahead of Kyle Busch, who also came back from a first-lap incident which caused some damage to the front end of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. His teammate Joey Logano and Penske's Kurt Busch rounded out the top ten.
The Hendrick Motorsports army struggled despite strong starting positions for both reigning champion Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin. The veteran would lead the race for a few laps, but would only manage 11th in the end, while Johnson fought handling issues and finished down in 22nd, followed by Jeff Gordon who suffered a right-rear puncture while running in the top 10.
Harvick continues to solidly lead the standings, while the top 12 remained unchanged with just six races left before the Chase.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 160
2. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 160
3. Greg Biffle Ford 160
4. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 160
5. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 160
6. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 160
7. Carl Edwards Ford 160
8. Kyle Busch Toyota 160
9. Joey Logano Toyota 160
10. Kurt Busch Dodge 160
11. Mark Martin Chevrolet 160
12. Matt Kenseth Ford 160
13. Kasey Kahne Ford 160
14. Paul Menard Ford 160
15. Denny Hamlin Toyota 160
16. AJ Allmendinger Ford 160
17. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 160
18. Bill Elliott Ford 160
19. Brad Keselowski Dodge 160
20. David Ragan Ford 160
21. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 160
22. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 160
23. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 160
24. Travis Kvapil Ford 160
25. Scott Speed Toyota 160
26. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 159
27. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 158
28. David Reutimann Toyota 157
29. Jacques Villeneuve Toyota 157
30. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 157
31. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 150
32. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 145
33. Regan Smith Chevrolet 135
34. Kevin Conway Ford 124
35. Reed Sorenson Toyota 89
36. Robby Gordon Toyota 68
37. Todd Bodine Toyota 59
38. Elliott Sadler Ford 55
39. Landon Cassill Chevrolet 52
40. Joe Nemechek Toyota 33
41. Dave Blaney Toyota 20
42. Michael McDowell Toyota 19
43. Max Papis Toyota 15