May 17, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT
Jamie McMurray took off like a rocket ship at the start of the final 10-lap segment and pulled away to a roughly 10 car-length lead to win the 30th Sprint All-Star Race and its $1 million prize at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
After taking four tires on the final pit stop following the fourth segment, McMurray had an outstanding restart in the 10-lap sprint, banging fenders several times with pole-sitter Carl Edwards, and then pulled away as if his Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth were standing still.
It was McMurray’s first win in the All-Star race, as well as team owner Chip Ganassi. The 20th winner of the All-Star race in its 30-year history, McMurray is now guaranteed a berth in the next 10 All-Star events.
“Awesome job by our pit crew at the end,” McMurray said. “I can’t believe I’m here. This is unbelievable now. … For me and the car, that was as much fun as you can have side-by-side in a 10-lap sprint.”
McMurray’s rookie crew chief Keith Rodden, who took over after last season, plotted outstanding pit strategy.
After bringing his driver in to change tires during a caution on Lap 25, Rodden kept McMurray on the track without changing tires until after the fourth segment.
That was in stark contrast to most other drivers like Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne, who changed tires after every 20-lap segment.
“Keith did an unbelievable job,” McMurray said. “He was a big secret in the garage and I’m glad I have the opportunity to work with him.”
Added Rodden, “We just did an unbelievable job that last stop, going back out there. Those 10 laps, it was like 10 perfect laps, man. I wouldn’t want anybody else driving our cars. This is awesome.”
Although it was a non-points race, it was the third time McMurray has visited a Sprint Cup victory lane at Charlotte. He won his first career race there back in fall 2002, substituting for the injured Sterling Marlin. He also won the fall 2010 race there, as well.
To his credit, Harvick made a race of it, but ran out of time, finishing .7 of a second behind McMurray.
However, Harvick may have ruffled some feathers with his team, blaming his pit crew for coming up short.
“We recovered from the first bad pit stop on pit road and then we didn’t recover from the second bad pit stop on pit road,” Harvick said. “We just didn’t get it done on pit road.”
Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and pole-sitter Carl Edwards.
“I’m really happy for Jamie,” Kenseth said. “If we couldn’t win, it’s always nice to see good guys win.”
Added Earnhardt, “I’m happy for Jamie, it’s a pretty cool deal for him. They’ve been needing something like that the last several years. I’m confident we’ll come back next week and do it.”
Edwards also gave credit to McMurray for getting the best of him on the final restart and then pulling away to the win.
“Jamie just did a perfect job on the restart,” Edwards said. “He ended up sweeping around me and dragging me down and it was a drag race.
“My hat is off to him. He did a great job, he earned it, I drove as hard as I could while he’s on the outside and he gave just enough room not to wreck me but still enough to beat me.”
Kyle Busch won the first 20-lap segment, while Kahne led following the second and third segments, and then Harvick led after the fourth segment.
Follow me @JerryBonkowski