TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jamie McMurray won at Talladega Superspeedway in a nearly clean race until rookie Austin Dillon lost control on the final lap Sunday, allowing the winner to coast across the line under caution.
McMurray – not a member of the Chase – won for the first time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2010, not even having to worry about an expected charge from Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Dillon spun coming out of the second turn.
The only other driver collected in the crash was Casey Mears, who slammed into Dillon’s car and sent it flying into the air before it came back down upright.
“I was a little discouraged I couldn’t get to the front earlier in the race,” McMurray said. “I felt if I could get there, I had enough speed that it would be hard to pass me.”
Jimmie Johnson steered around trouble and finished 13th, emerging with the lead in the Sprint Cup standings. The five-time Cup champion passed Matt Kenseth – who finished 20th – for the top spot and has a four-point edge with four races remaining.
Earnhardt settled for second, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard and Kyle Busch.
Dillon, who was filling in for injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 car, wound up 26th after going to the final lap in third.
“Every race here, we have a wreck on the last lap,” Earnhardt said. “For some reason, it was a lot calmer the last few laps. Everybody was pretty good about staying in line.”
After running strong early in the 188-lap race, Kenseth dealt with an ill-handling car and lost several spots when he attempted to make a move late in the race.
“It was really bizarre,” he said. “Typically handling is a non-issue here. We just got loose, and I couldn’t even hang on to it.”