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Auto Racing Roundup

McMurray roars to victory

Brickyard win is historic as Ganassi hits a triple

Jamie McMurray pulls out ahead of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (42) during a late pit stop at the Brickyard. Montoya was leading the race prior to the stop. McMurray (below) has a Coke and a smile as he celebrates an improbable win on Victory Lane. Jamie McMurray pulls out ahead of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (42) during a late pit stop at the Brickyard. Montoya was leading the race prior to the stop. McMurray (below) has a Coke and a smile as he celebrates an improbable win on Victory Lane. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press (Top); John Harrelson/Getty Images for Nascar)
Associated Press / July 26, 2010

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Jamie McMurray followed teammate Juan Pablo Montoya around and around historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, almost resigned to settling for a second-place finish.

McMurray had already won one big race this year and as a firm believer in fate, he figured yesterday’s Brickyard 400 was Montoya’s chance to celebrate.

Only it didn’t play out that way.

Not even close.

Montoya suffered a heartbreaking defeat for the second straight year at Indy, opening the door for McMurray to become just the third driver in NASCAR history to win the Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500 in the same year.

“I really believe that this was Juan’s weekend,’’ a sympathetic McMurray said. “I’m looking with 15 or 20 laps to go and Juan is leading — not that I was content — but, if this is the way it’s supposed to be, then that’s just the way it is.’’

The win was huge for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, which this time last year was struggling to prove the team was stable and capable of competing for wins. Yesterday, Chip Ganassi became the first team owner to win the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, and Brickyard 400 in the same season.

It was pit strategy that sunk Montoya, who started from the pole and led 86 of the 160 laps only to finish 32d.

A late caution for debris sent the field to pit road with Montoya as the leader, and crew chief Brian Pattie called for a four-tire stop. McMurray crew chief Kevin Manion went the opposite direction, settling for a two-tire stop in what Ganassi characterized as a “split strategy’’ that would ensure the organization would benefit from one of the two calls.

“The only reason we could do that is because we knew [Montoya] was going for four,’’ Ganassi said. “As a team, we had sort of both strategies covered there, I guess.’’

As six cars, led by McMurray, beat Montoya off pit road, he immediately questioned the decision. The four tires put him in seventh on the restart with 18 laps to go, and he vented over his radio how difficult it was to pass in traffic.

Trying hard to drive back to the front, he lost control of his Chevrolet and crashed hard into the wall before bouncing into Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car. Montoya drove his battered car directly to the garage and did not comment as he left the track.

A year ago, he led 116 laps before a late speeding penalty cost him the victory.

Pattie took the blame for yesterday’s failure, “bad call. Crew chief error. We should have taken two tires,’’ and the rest of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teetered along the fine line of celebrating for McMurray while sympathizing with Montoya.

“I know he’s mad,’’ Ganassi said of Montoya. “I’m sure he’s mad. But he’s over it. It’s racing. This is what he does for a living.’’

IndyCar — Scott Dixon won a controversial Honda Edmonton Indy after driver Helio Castroneves crossed the finish line first, but was penalized for blocking his teammate.

An enraged Castroneves, who ended up 10th, stormed from his car after the race to yell at IndyCar officials and grabbed one by the collar.

Castroneves took the lead from Team Penske teammate Will Power with 18 laps to go in the 95-lap race, but was called for blocking Power when Power tried to pass him on a restart with two laps to go.

With Power blocked by Castroneves, Dixon stormed past him to take second place as the checkered flag came out.

Formula One — Fernando Alonso won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, but his Ferrari team was fined $100,000 for orchestrating his pass of teammate Felipe Massa.

Race stewards didn’t overturn Ferrari’s 1-2 finish, choosing to send the case to the sport’s governing body, which could impose more sanctions. Team orders that affect the result of a race are forbidden under F-1 rules.

Alonso had more points in the title race and the team apparently felt it would be better served if he collected the 25 points that go to the winner rather than Massa.

“I don’t think I have to say anything to that,’’ Massa said when asked after the race about the instructions. “We work for the team.’’

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