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Wow! What a day? Two hours of boredom, that drivers conceded was embarrassing, then two wild crashes...and Jamie McMurray wins

  Jamie McMurray celebrates snapping that winless streak (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern
Jamie McMurray, one of this sport's really nice guys, has had a rough go of it this season. Of course just about everyone not named Jimmie Johnson can say the same.
   But McMurray right now, with now only three races left in the season, is driving his heart out because he needs to land a new ride for 2010.
   Or at least find a sponsor, to help him land a new ride.
   With car owner Jack Roush needing to cut his five-team operation to four teams next year, because of NASCAR's team limit rules, and with sponsorship issues plaguing this sport, McMurray is scrambling to find something or make something happen.
   So Sunday's Talladega 500 victory couldn't come at a better time.
   For Roush as well.
   It's been eight months since Roush's last tour win, in California, with Matt Kenseth. And McMurray's last tour win was in the summer of 2007 at Daytona.
   McMurray, in what was a very strange race, wound up leading the most laps, 32 of the extended 191. And he became a real player for the win in the final 100 miles, after crew chief Donnie Wingo wrangled the right pit strategy to get McMurray out front – in something of a race where not many men really seemed to want to lead.
   And McMurray was ahead of the day's two big crashes: on lap 185, when Ryan Newman flipped and NASCAR brought out a 12-minute red flag while safety crews extracted Newman from his mangled car, and the last lap mess when 13 cars crashed and spun going to the checkered flag. When a yellow comes out, drivers are supposed to stop racing immediately, and scoring is done through electronic lines buried in the track. So sometimes it's difficult to sort out, at a yellow, who is ahead of whom. And then sometimes drivers simply keep racing, particularly at the end of the race (like at Loudon, N.H. a few weeks ago) because they're not sure just what is coming down.
   "I saw the guys wreck behind me, and I didn't know if you had to take the white….I wasn't real sure what the rules were," McMurray conceded. "And Kasey Kahne (running second down the stretch to the flag) went to the outside because he saw the same issue. But I just moved up and kind of tried to block him. 
    "As soon as I crossed the start-finish line I shut the engine off and pushed the clutch in and coasted around as far as I could."
   That's because McMurray, like most drivers at the end, had been trying to stretch his fuel.
   In fact Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon were among the men who ran out….and the two thus all but gave this year's Sprint Cup championship to teammate Jimmie Johnson, who took advantage of everyone's misfortunes to turn a 30th place run into a  stunning sixth place finish.
   For McMurray the win was thus bittersweet, unless he can wrangle a sponsor and ride out of it, in these next few weeks.
   "It's been a long time since I’ve won, and I want to assure every fan out there that I appreciate this as much as anybody," McMurray said emotionally. "Thanks to all my fans who have stuck with me."
   For next year McMurray says he has nothing lined up.


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