Team owner Chip Ganassi claimed NASCAR’s version of the Triple Crown on Sunday as his driver, Jamie McMurray, won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. With the win Ganassi became the first car owner to win the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year.
“I’m the luckiest guy on the planet,” Ganassi said. “You wouldn’t dare to dream this. You wouldn’t dare to dream this kind of year.”
McMurray became just the third driver in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year. The last driver was Jimmie Johnson in 2006. Dale Jarrett was the first driver in 1996.
Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar Series race earlier this year in Ganassi’s Target car.
McMurray took the lead from Kevin Harvick on the final restart with 11 laps to go and went on to win the race by 1.391-seconds.
“I’m running the last 10 laps of this thing and just praying every lap there isn’t going to be a caution and that my car was going to have the grip I need,” McMurray recalled. “It is remarkable to be put in this position. Honestly, I’m in shock right now.
Harvick had just taken the lead when the caution came out on lap 167 to set up a double-file restart and an 11-lap shootout.
After the race Harvick, who finished second, said his car didn’t show the muster it had to pass McMurray before the caution.
“I got tight going into turn one there in the middle and just had to wait on my car and Jaime was able to carry the momentum around on the outside,” Harvick said. “The first restart my car actually took off and we were able to get by him but my car never acted like that again but it was a good day for our Shell-Pennzoil Chevy and everybody did a great job just putting us in position. I felt like we had a top-five car but we didn’t have a winning car and we had a chance to win there at the end but just came up a little short.”
Harvick, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five finishers as Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch filled in the rest of the top-ten positions.
Kyle Busch was involved in a seven-car accident in turn two on the opening lap of the race. However, he sustained only minimal damage to his No. 18 Toyota and drove his car up through the field through the race.
“I don’t know what happened there on the opening lap,” Busch said after the race. “I just lost it, I guess. It just went around. I had trouble every restart really trying to get going, especially through (turns) one and two. I had trouble getting going on restarts. All in all, we came back and bounced back solidly, so that was good. We needed a good run — it’s been a while.”
Mark Martin finished 11th and was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to finish inside of the top-20 at Indianapolis. Jeff Gordon, who was looking for his fifth Brickyard 400 victory, finished 23rd after battling with a tight-handling car throughout the race.
Jimmie Johnson, who was running for a third-consecutive Indy victory and the fourth of his career, started off the race strong and ran in the top-five for the first 47 laps of the race. Johnson was tenth when the caution came out on lap 66. On lap 69, Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus decided to keep Johnson on pit road for a long stop to make adjustments to the car, leaving Johnson to restart 22nd on lap 70.
Johnson continued to drop after the stop and spent more time on pit road during the fourth caution of the race on lap 120 to change shocks. He would later go a lap down while on pit road.
Johnson later finished 22nd, but made it back to the lead lap.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running the top-15 before he was involved in a crash with Juan Pablo Montoya. Earnhardt was an innocent bystander when Montoya got loose off of turn 4 on lap 147.
“The car was really good,” Earnhardt said. “Right in the middle of the race, it got real tight, then we fixed it. I felt like we were pretty good coming up through there. Right at the end, I felt like we had a good car, a good top-ten car. Montoya got in the fence there and just kind of pulled down and stopped in front of us. I was side-by-side with somebody (Marcos Ambrose).
“I didn’t even see him hit the wall, I didn’t even know there was a car in the wall until he came across the No. 47 (Ambrose) hood and there he was, I ran right in the back of him. Nowhere to go.”
Montoya would head straight to the garage and would go on to finish 32nd after leading 86 laps. Earnhardt did receive major damage to his left front, but continued and finished 27th, two laps down.
Montoya had the dominate car for the second year in a row only to finish outside of the top-ten. Last year, Montoya led 116 laps but picked up a pit road speeding penalty from NASCAR in the closing laps to finish 11th.
It was a call for four tires for the then race leader Montoya, as his teammate and a handful of other cars took two tires that put Montoya further back in the pack.
“Bad call,” Montoya’s crew chief Brian Pattie said. “Crew chief error. We should have taken two tires.”
Notes: The 16 laps led by McMurray were the second-least amount led by an eventual Brickyard 400. Jarrett led only 11 laps in his 1996 victory. … The race saw 14 lead changes among 10 drivers. … The race had six cautions for 25 laps. Four of those cautions were for debris, on laps 16, 67, 118 and 139. The other two were for accidents, one on the first lap and the other on lap 147. … Harvick leads Gordon by 184 points heading into Pocono with six races left until the chase cutoff at Richmond.