NASCAR: Jamie McMurray misses out on Bristol win, chance to make Chase

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Chip Ganassi Racing veteran Jamie McMurray has to win a regular season race in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Last night at Bristol Motor Speedway, he almost pulled it off.

But as we know with this new Chase format, almost doesn’t count.

McMurray was leading the Irwin Tools Night Race at the time of a debris caution with 70 laps remaining. He took the opportunity to make his final stop and was the first of the leaders to pit.

But a group of four drivers – Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson, and Paul Menard – chose to stay out. That put McMurray fifth on the subsequent restart, and instead of going forward, he went backward as his No. 1 Chevrolet suffered ill-timed handling issues.

He ultimately finished eighth.

“I don’t know what happened,” said McMurray, who is still in “win or bust” mode at 60 points behind 16th on the Chase Grid with two regular season races left.

“Our car got really tight with about 100 laps to go. We freed it up on the last pit stop and it didn’t really help.”

It’s a tough result for McMurray after he was as strong as he was during the second half of last night’s 500-lap race.

As the night went on, he began to think that he and the No. 1 team were capable of taking home the trophy.

“I thought tonight would be a good night to be able to win,” he said. “As we were running around there, I thought we had a legitimate chance to win tonight if we did everything right.

“It’s not like we did anything wrong. It’s just that as the track rubbered up more and more, it just didn’t suit our car as much as it did for the other guys.

“In the middle of the race when I was lapping all these guys, I couldn’t figure out why they were slowing down so much. And then I was kind of in the same situation.”

Now McMurray must push even harder to get a win either at Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend or in the regular season finale two weeks from now at Richmond International Raceway.

Those two tracks have not been all that great to him recently. He hasn’t finished better than seventh at Atlanta since 2008, and has only one Top-5 finish in his last 10 Richmond starts; this past April, he finished 13th there.

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 3 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Day 3 of pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda continue testing for the second day in a row, with each series completing three sessions on what was their final day of running.

Quick reports on both series are below.

Pro Mazda: Cunha Surges to the Front

While Saturday saw Pro Mazda newcomers like Oliver Askew, Parker Thompson, and Rinus VeeKey lead the way, Sunday saw a pair of second-year Pro Mazda drivers take their turns at the top of the speed charts. In the combined results, Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunha turned the fastest lap of the final session, also good enough to be the outright fastest lap of the weekend, taking advantage of a fresh set of Cooper Tires to do so.

“I’m really happy, Juncos Racing is an amazing team,” Cunha said of the team’s performance. “On track, we are always improving, never going backwards and that’s very good. We have tested a lot but we still need to learn a lot about the car, though we are almost to a perfect setup. The team has given me everything I need to be comfortable inside the car, to know what the car needs, and to know what I need to be a better driver. We have time to improve and we are moving forward quickly.”

Fellow sophomore driver Sting Ray Robb, now with Team Pelfrey, was right behind Cunha in second.

Combined results across both Saturday and Sunday can be found here.

USF2000: Kirkwood, Cape Motorsports Stay On Top of Deep USF2000 Field

New Cape Motorsports driver Kyle Kirkwood, who topped Session 2 on Saturday, stayed on top of the combined speed charts across the weekend on the strength of his best lap from Session 3 of the weekend on Saturday.

Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh was right behind Kirkwood, on the strength of his quick lap from Session 1.

However, Sunday’s running saw a different driver assert his authority, with Kaylen Frederick, Lindh’s teammate at Pabst, turning the fastest lap during the final session.

Frederick ended up fourth in the combined results, which can be viewed here.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will take to the Homestead-Miami road course on Monday for the final day of testing for the Mazda Road to Indy.

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