Jamie McMurray blows a tire late in the running at Bristol, several drivers including Josh Wise and Clint Bowyer get caught in the aftermath.
CGR duo scores top-10 finishes with McMurray challenging Harvick late RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings AVONDALE, Ariz. -- The CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway brought the two-car Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates organization something that became very familiar in the latter part of the season: two top-10 finishes. Strategy plays to stay out on older tires led Jamie McMurray to a runner-up finish and Kyle Larson to a 10th-place finish. McMurray gave race winner and Phoenix dominator Kevin Harvick a late challenge on the final restart on Lap 301, but he couldn't quite get ahead of the defending Sprint Cup Series champion. The late restart was something in particular that McMurray lamented after the race. "If I could do my restart over again right now, I would have done something a little different," McMurray said. What exactly would he have done? "It was really hard on the last two restarts to get any drive," McMurray said. "When you would get to the corner, it didn't want to turn and it was loose. No grip. Sliding around a lot. Honestly, when I went through one and two I felt like I totally missed the corner and I was waiting to hear, three-wide, you're in the middle. I heard, clear. I wish I would have moved up immediately. He had momentum on the outside. "I didn't feel like I was clear. The cars are kind of like what we have at Daytona. When you're clear of someone or when someone gets to your quarter panel, you can feel it bog the car down. I didn't feel like I was clear. Hindsight, I would have listened to my spotter a little bit and just moved up. I felt like I missed the corner so I didn't have any idea how I could be clear." Still, McMurray was pleased with the day overall and praised crew chief Matt McCall 's late-race call to stay out on older tires in just his fourth race as the crew chief for the No. 1 team. "I'm really happy with second. It would be nice to be in Victory Lane and know you were locked into the Chase the way the point format works. "Matt did a great job calling the race. That's hard in your first four or five races to make that decision in the end to stay out on old tires. In hindsight, it was the right one. "When you're in the car, you run that many laps, you know how bad the car feels, when he asks me, 'what do you want to do?' I'm like, you're the crew chief. I'm going to do whatever you think is right.' He did a great job today." The two drivers carry their mojo forward at Phoenix and used quick stops on pit road to do so. McMurray spent the least amount of time on pit road (160.584 total seconds) and Larson spent the third-least amount of time on pit road (163.666 total seconds). Last season, despite not being in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff, McMurray and Larson were arguably two of the strongest cars during that 10-race stretch, combining for 11 top-10 finishes (Larson had 6, McMurray had 5). The first races of 2015 did not see that strong late-season showing carry over as the organization's Daytona and Atlanta results drew finishes of 26th-or-worse in both races. The team seemed to regain its footing with last weekend at Las Vegas with Larson finishing eighth and McMurray finishing 11th. For Larson, the second straight top-10 was a welcomed sight and he gained four spots in the point standings to move up to 17th. "I'm happy to get a second top-10," Larson said on pit road after the race. "Wish we could have been a little bit better. Wish it would have stayed green there a little bit more without getting those last couple cautions because we were all good on fuel." Now, the California native is preparing to head back home for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX). The reigning Sunoco Rookie of the Year scored his first career top-five finish there last year with a runner-up showing. "Last year, we finished second but we weren't racing up front the whole time," Larson said. "We just had a good restart. But we've learned a lot with our intermediate cars so we should be a lot better when we go back. We'll just have to wait and see when it comes to practice on Friday." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Larson: 'We've had fast race cars ... we just haven't caught the breaks we needed to' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live LAS VEGAS -- Tucked in on the far side of the diamond-shaped Las Vegas Motor Speedway garage, a good hike away from the busy vibe and buzz of the entryway on the opposite side of the paddock, sit the two Chip Ganassi Racing transporters of drivers Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray . A few garage stalls away from the Ganassi teammates' Chevys are the cars belonging to Sunday's Kobalt 400 pole-winner Jeff Gordon and three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart . Four teams that have been fast and been in contention in 2015, but that have no results to show for it. Yet. Gordon, who won the Daytona 500 pole and was the fastest qualifier again for Sunday's race, will instead start in the rear of the field in a backup No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after being collected in a crash during the final minute of Saturday's final practice. He has finished 33rd and 41st in the first two races of his final full-time season and wrecked in both. Stewart, who showed good speed at Daytona and will start 12th Sunday, has finishes of 42nd and 30th for the year. And the Ganassi teammates of Larson and McMurray -- two of the hottest drivers in the closing races of the 2014 season -- have picked up right where they left off: Fast. Both ran up front during the Daytona 500 and both advanced to the final round of qualifying last week at Atlanta. McMurray and Larson were 1-2 in the second round of qualifying on Friday here in Las Vegas, advancing to the final 12 of time trials again. It's the finishing that's at issue. Larson -- who will start fifth Sunday in his No. 42 Target Chevy -- has finishes of 34th (Daytona) and 26th (Atlanta). McMurray -- who will start 10th in his No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet -- has finishes of 27th and 40th. "We've had fast race cars, both of us, we just haven't caught the breaks we needed to,'' said Larson, the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year. "I was running 10th at the white flag in Daytona and we got jumbled up and wrecked. At Atlanta, I thought we had a top-five car and then had a bunch of issues about three-quarters of the way through the race. I hit someone on a green-flag pit stop and then my shifter broke for the second week in a row.'' "The main thing is we have fast race cars, so we're not worried yet. The good part of the new format is you can win one race and you're back in it. I'm confident in my team.'' Larson's crew chief Chris Heroy is equally confident in the team, but more than ready for a change in fortune. "I'm a believer you make your own luck to a certain extent,'' Heroy said of Larson's unfortunate race finishes. "This week is really about tightening up the details, not having a shifter fall off into his lap in a race." "Having fast cars definitely helps you get through the week when you have had problems like we’ve had. I believe you create your own luck to a certain extent but we have had some pretty unique circumstances. All we can do is focus on the details and get these cars and Kyle the finishes they deserve. We've made major changes already in pursuit of that and we won't stop until we get there." McMurray , a Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner, said that despite the scorecard, he's found great solace in the season start. "Even though we haven't finished well, it's been a really good start to our season for the 1 and the 42 car,'' McMurray said. "And with (new crew chief) Matt (McCall) coming over and the little bit of rules changes we had and the different engine package you don't really know if you're going to pick up where you left off last year. "I was optimistic but very quiet about how I felt about that. I knew there was a chance things might not pick up right where we ended. Plus, not having any testing and as a team not getting to work together, you really don't have a clue where you're going to be. "But we're probably faster this year than we were even at the end of last year. I say that for both cars. We've really been top-five cars at the first two intermediate tracks, lots of speed." If fans had to do a double-take on the Ganassi locale in the Vegas garage, so did the team's drivers. Their uncharacteristically lower ranking in the drivers points puts them in a section of the garage more typically filled by lesser-funded, smaller operations that consider a top-20 race result a fantastic day. Being further down in the points standings has very tangible disadvantages. "It's hard, it stinks, especially where we are parked here in the garage, you don't get to get on the track right away when practice starts,'' McMurray said. "But I've watched Matt Kenseth or Jimmie Johnson blow up in the 500 and I think Jimmie won the championship that year. "It's frustrating to have a couple bad races. Plate races are always a gamble, but Atlanta was somewhere we definitely should have finished in the top-10 and you would have recovered from your Daytona 500 immediately and had your mulligan in the bag. "When you have two bad races, we have to have the next five go really well to move back up in the points and get to where we need to be." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kyle Larson has a little fun with teammate Jamie McMurray during the rain delay at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Former race engineer for No. 31 team starts immediately RELATED: See other changes for 2015 Jamie McMurray will have a new crew chief for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Matt McCall will take the reins of the No. 1 Chevrolet team from Keith Rodden for Chip Ganassi Racing effective immediately. McCall joins the team from Richard Childress Racing , where he served as the race engineer for the No. 31 team of Ryan Newman , which finished as the runner-up in the Sprint Cup championship. McCall has experience competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as a driver. He also served as a crew chief for one race in 2013 for Jeff Burton at Indianapolis. The Denver, North Carolina, native graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a major in mechanical engineering. "I am very excited to join the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team," McCall said in a team release. "This organization is one that everyone in the garage has taken notice of in 2014 and I am just looking forward to the opportunity to make them even better. We have a group of very talented people building and driving the race cars here and I can't wait to get started." There was no immediate word on Rodden's future with Chip Ganassi Racing. In 2014, McMurray finished with the most top-fives (seven) since 2010 and the most top-10s (13) since 2004. In addition to winning the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race, McMurray and Rodden really seemed to find their stride in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. While McMurray did not qualify for the 10-race playoff, he racked up four top-five finishes in that 10-race stretch. "I am really looking forward to 2015 and beginning to work with Matt," McMurray said in a team release. "As a team, I think we will carry a lot of momentum into Daytona and the hiring of Matt will continue to move the program forward." McMurray , who has competed in the sport's premier series full time for 12 years, has seven wins -- including the 2010 Daytona 500 . MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Jamie McMurray gives credit to his new crew chief, Matt McCall, for making a gutsy call to stay out and try to steal the win away from Kevin Harvick.
Felix Sabates makes a guarantee that both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray will make the Chase in 2015. Chip Ganassi also gives Jamie McMurray the "big-game hunter" moniker.
McMurray , crew chief McCall find similarities that bring the two together
CGR driver will lead field to green in Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota MORE: Full Martinsville race lineup MARTINSVILLE, Va.— When the green flag waves to start the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN), it won't be a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver who leads the field to the start/finish line. Touring the .526-mile short track in 18.954 seconds (99.905 mph) in his No. 1 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray upstaged the championship contenders on Friday in winning the pole for the first race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase. In claiming his second Coors Light pole award of the season, his second at Martinsville and the 11th of his career, McMurray beat title contenders Joey Logano (99.605 mph) and Matt Kenseth (99.318 mph) for the top spot. Tony Stewart (99.297 mph) qualified fourth, followed by Chase driver Denny Hamlin (99.266 mph). Six of the eight eligible remaining Chase drivers qualified in the top 12. Brad Keselowski will start sixth, Ryan Newman ninth and Carl Edwards 11th. In McMurray's case, practice made perfect. His pole followed a productive recent test session at the historic short track. "We tested here a couple of weeks ago, and I thought we had one of the best tests that I've been a part of, really since I started racing," McMurray said. "Really well organized… We made the car better throughout the test and hit on a couple things that really had a lot of speed in it. "So I was pretty excited about getting here this weekend. Our cars have been so quick the past two or three months—really all year, but more so in the past few months. This is a great track for me, and we had a really good test. When things are going well, you get excited to come back to the track. It was really great that we were able to take that test and use that toward earning the pole today." Jeff Gordon, one of the pre-race favorites, narrowly missed advancing to the second round of knockout qualifying and will start 13th. The real casualty of Friday's time trials, however, was Kevin Harvick , who scraped the wall in the 30-minute first round and will start 33rd. "We just missed it today," said Harvick, whose career-average finish of 15.8 at Martinsville is worst among the eight remaining Chase drivers. "We were way too loose. We struggled in practice and just missed it in qualifying. "We'll just have to get it better (in Saturday's practice) and be ready to go on Sunday." Gordon, who missed advancing to the second round by .003 seconds, shrugged off his position on the grid. "I don't mind starting 13th," he said. "It's not a bad place to start. You just want that really good pit stall, and so we'll definitely suffer with a pit stall a little bit. "But we can definitely still win it from there. Our car is really good." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Six of eight Chase drivers in top 15 RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Sprint Cup Series Practice 3 " ( RESULTS ) Jamie McMurray kept Kevin Harvick from a three-practice sweep, running the fastest lap in the third and final session ahead of Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 . McMurray's No. 1 Chevrolet turned a lap of 137.106 mph in 26.257 seconds. Harvick, who was fastest in the first two sessions at Phoenix International Raceway , fell just .008 seconds off of the leader's pace, putting him in the second position on the leaderboard. Matt Kenseth was .017 seconds off the leader's pace in third, running a lap of 137.007 mph. Harvick, currently last in the Chase standings, is in need of a win to advance to the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He'll have fierce competition from other drivers trying to make the cut this week, however, with six Chase drivers in the top 15 in the last practice. Joey Logano , currently leading the standings, was fourth-fastest, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who was eliminated from the Chase following the Talladega race. Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr ., Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson and pole-sitter Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10. After placing in the top 10 in both earlier sessions, Kyle Larson fell to 13th-fastest in the final session. The rest of the Chase field finished as follows: Brad Keselowski , 12th; Ryan Newman , 19th; Carl Edwards , 21st. The Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, with coverage on ESPN. Sprint Cup Series Practice 2 " ( RESULTS ) Kevin Harvick topped Sprint Cup Series practice for the second time this weekend despite having a slightly slower speed. Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet took a fastest lap of 138.403 mph, with his best lap on his sixth of 31 turns around the track. His best lap in the opening session was 141.521 mph. Harvick is currently eighth in the Chase standings, and needs a win to guarantee advancement into next week's Championship Round. Brad Keselowski, one point ahead of Harvick in the Chase standings, was second-fastest with a lap at 138.387 mph. Keselowski is five points behind Jeff Gordon in fourth, the final transfer spot to Homestead. Kurt Busch , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Tony Stewart completed the top-five fastest; Gordon finished sixth-fastest. Kyle Larson was the fastest rookie in the session, with a lap of 137.295 mph. He finished second-fastest in the opening practice. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin didn't bring the same speed to practice, finishing in the final position of the top 20. Casey Mears ran the most laps in the session with 46, an effort that put him in ninth on the leaderboard. The other Chase contenders finished as follows: Matt Kenseth , 10th; Joey Logano , 12th; Denny Hamlin , 20th; Ryan Newman , 25th; Carl Edwards , 29th. The final practice session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET, with coverage one FOX Sports 2. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation