McMurray settles for fourth after pushing for Sonoma win

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Today at Sonoma Raceway, Jamie McMurray threatened to become the 11th different winner in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup campaign before finishing fourth after starting on pole.

McMurray was pressuring eventual winner Carl Edwards for the lead when a caution came out with 20 laps to go after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun following contact with Brian Vickers.

But that meant McMurray still had an opportunity to pass Edwards on the subsequent restart with 16 laps left. Unfortunately for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, he made a mistake after the green came back out.

“I’m happy that I’m mad that I finished fourth, if that makes any sense,” he said afterwards. “I thought I had a chance to win but when the last caution came out I was working Carl there a little bit, and I was just waiting on him to make a mistake. I felt like I was better than he was.

“And when we went back green, after the caution, I just used up too much car in [Turns] 1 and 2 and spun the tires really bad and paid the penalty for that the remainder of the run.”

Eventually, Jeff Gordon got by McMurray for second position with nine laps to go and Dale Earnhardt Jr. peeled third away from him a short time later.

At that point, McMurray appeared to know that his ebbing chances of victory had gone away entirely.

“I could see how fast [Earnhardt] was catching me and I came on the radio and I’m like, ‘Is he on a different strategy than we are?’ And [the team] was like, ‘Yeah,'” McMurray said.

“So, when he caught me, I didn’t really put up a fight because I knew that he was going to get by. I was more worried about the No. 27 [Paul Menard]. He was another ten seconds back, if he was going to be able to catch me at the end.”

Menard could not do so, leaving McMurray with his final result. The fourth-place finish is his second Top-5 and third Top-10 in the last five races, and he hasn’t finished worse than 13th in that stretch.

McMurray and the No. 1 CGR crew are beginning to pick it up as they seek to get into proper Chase contention.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.