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.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.