Jamie McMurray clinched a thrilling victory in the 49th annual Pepsi 400 as he wheeled his No. 26 Irwin Marathon Tool Ford through the field for the closest Pepsi 400 finish since the advent of computer scoring. The finish also tied for the second-closest NEXTEL Cup Series finish.
McMurray's .005 second finish over runner-up Kyle Busch was significant for many reasons. The win marked the last race at Daytona International Speedway for the current cars, it broke Chevrolet's winning streak on the high banks of Daytona that started with the Pepsi 400 in 2004 and spanned both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series, and it was McMurray's first win since October of 2002, 166 races ago, and only the second of his career.
"I cannot believe that I'm in Victory Lane at Daytona of all places," McMurray said. "I've said for five years, or however long, that there would never be another victory like Charlotte. You wait so long to win. I couldn't believe it. Every driver that goes through that knows how special this is. I started crying and I'm like, 'What are you crying for?' and it's because I'm happy."
Teammates and family seemed to be key in the final laps. Busch received drafting help from his brother, Kurt Busch, who brought his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge across the finish line in third. McMurray credited teammate Carl Edwards, who came in fourth, with pushing him to the win. Roush Fenway Racing finished with four cars in the top 10 while Hendrick Motorsports had three in the top 10.
"I was hoping to get right behind Kyle and push him the best that I could," Kurt said. "I had Jeff Gordon behind me and it seemed like our strategy was for the long runs. It seemed like they ganged up on us at the end there, which was great. Great racing. I don't think you could have scripted a better finish for the fans here. It's always fun in Daytona; It's always fun here in July. We just came home a bit short."
"It was a great battle there with Jamie and the other Hendrick cars, the Roush cars, and Kurt Busch was in there too," Kyle said. "I wish we could have won the final restrictor-plate race with the regular car, but we were just trying to battle there at the finish line. I think I got a little too anxious off of Turn 4 and just didn't have enough momentum to carry me to the finish line. I'm proud of the effort from (my team) and being able to run up front all night. I've got to thank my brother for pushing me at the end and sticking with me."
McMurray raced his way through the field after being black flagged on lap 30 for passing below the yellow line. He relinquished his lead to serve a pass-through penalty. McMurray was close to going a lap down when the fourth caution came out, allowing him to catch up to the back of the pack. Once in the draft, he was able to move his way quickly through the field.
Former Daytona International Speedway President Bill France, Jr., who passed away last month, was honored before the race at the historic speedway which he helped build in the late 1950s. There was a video tribute, a moment of silence, and during the pace laps prior to the race, seven-time Daytona 500 champion, Richard Petty, led the field driving a specially designed Daytona International Speedway/NASCAR tribute car and then slowed as the field split with the car falling to the back of the pack.
Items of note:
Tony Stewart, winner of the last two Pepsi 400s, was looking for a third consecutive win to tie David Pearson as the only other driver to accomplish that feat. Stewart saw that opportunity disappear when he was involved in the second caution of the day on lap 15. Stewart and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin crashed while running 1-2 at the time.
Also involved in the second caution was Dale Earnhardt, Jr., running his last race with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. at the World Center of Racing. He became the beneficiary of the third caution, but had to eventually take the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet behind the wall before returning to the track 25 laps down.
Defending Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick, who was trying to become the first driver to sweep Daytona since Bobby Allison in 1982, was caught up in the fourth caution of the day after keeping his No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet near the front of the field up to that time.
The action packed race saw a total of 27 passes for the lead among 11 drivers.
Twenty drivers in the field Saturday night were racing their second race of the day, as they had all taken part in the Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo Busch Series race Saturday morning. Kyle Busch, the winner of the rain-postponed Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo, continued to show the strength of his car and his team, staying in the top 10 and contending for the lead up until the final lap.
Tickets for the 50th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17, can be purchased by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or going online at www.racetickets.com