McMurray wins Brickyard after Montoya hits the wall
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Jamie McMurray's a big believer in fate, that things work out in the end if you just keep at it.
It's an ethos that's buoyed the NASCAR driver throughout his often bumpy career, one that's been a mixed bag at best, disappointing at worst.
McMurray remained upbeat last summer when he knew he was on his way out at Roush-Fenway Racing, optimistic he'd eventually find a new home. Opportunity came in a surprising place: driving for Chip Ganassi, the owner he'd left five years earlier for the deeper pockets at RFR.
It was a detour McMurray felt he needed to take. He came back to Ganassi who had merged operations with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the interim a more mature, more appreciative driver.
He also came back to a better team, one that's found a way to thrive on NASCAR's biggest stages.
McMurray held off Kevin Harvick to win Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and become only the third driver to triumph at both Indy and the Daytona 500 in the same season.
Heady territory for a driver and a team hardly considered among the sport's elite eight months ago.
"Everybody that has stuck behind me, when things weren't as great as they could have been. It's unreal right now. Winning the 500 ... both of them, it's just awesome."
McMurray joins Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jimmie Johnson (2006) as the only drivers to pull off the Daytona-Indy double while Ganassi has another bauble to add to his growing collection. Ganassi is the only owner to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Brickyard in the same season.
For most of the race it appeared Ganassi was a lock for Victory Lane not with McMurray but Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian dominated at the 2.5-mile oval for the second straight year, leading a race-high 86 laps before an ill-fated gamble to take four tires instead of two during a late caution left the 2000 Indy 500 champion snakebit yet again.
The move dropped Montoya from first to seventh. His No. 42 car struggled on the restart and five laps later he found himself smacking the wall in Turn 4 before getting drilled by Dale Earnhardt Jr. He finished 32nd.
Crew chief Brian Pattie took responsibility for the miscue, and Ganassi didn't exactly disagree.
"What do I say to Juan and Brian? They should have taken two," Ganassi said.
It's a gamble that paid off handsomely for McMurray, who had little trouble shaking free of Kevin Harvick on the restart following Montoya's crash and picked up his fifth career victory.
Though McMurray remains on the outside of NASCAR's Chase picture, he's not exactly worried about it. A year ago he was a lame-duck driver on an underachieving team. Those days seem long ago.