Jeff Gordon is frustrated after a battle with Jamie McMurray on the track, says over the radio that he will 'punt his ass' when he catches up to McMurray in the Ford EcoBoost 400.
RELATED: Full Dover race results " Updated Chase Grid " Series standings DOVER, Del. -- It was a second-half battle between Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jamie McMurray and it wasn't settled until the final lap of Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . It wasn't for the win. But, in this scenario, it was just as important. Earnhardt Jr. finished third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, McMurray finished fourth and that order determined the final spot in the 12-driver lineup for the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The two drivers finished tied in the final points standings after the three-race Challenger Round, but Earnhardt Jr. earned the final transfer position based on having the better finish of the two drivers (his Dover result) in this opening round. A fast restart by McMurray's Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet inside the final 100 laps of the 400-lap event took Earnhardt Jr. by surprise -- "I didn't see that kind of speed in his car all day," Earnhardt said -- and had some wondering if Earnhardt would be the second Hendrick Motorsports to fail to advance. Teammate Jimmie Johnson , felled by a broken rear axle seal, finished 41st and dropped from Chase contention. RELATED: Johnson's hopes for a seventh title come to an end It was a final caution, the result of oil put down by the No. 40 of Landon Cassill on Lap 373, that gave Earnhardt Jr. his opportunity. " Jamie was trying to squeeze down in front of Matt (Kenseth) into Turn 3 and get to the bottom, and they really slow‑rolled that corner for some reason, both of them," he said. "I just went to the outside because it was about the only shot I had to pinch anybody down, pinch Jamie down if I could get to his quarter panel, and that's how it worked out. "I thought we were about the third- to fifth-best car, and we just fought all day for track position, and we passed a lot of cars and had a lot of fun." The No. 88 crew chief, Greg Ives said having the two earlier wins was fortunate but that "we shouldn't even be in this position right now. "Running out of fuel (at Loudon), we ran well enough to finish in the top three (there)," he said. "This is not indicative of where our team is; the heart and the fight we had today showed where this team is at." Earnhardt had finished 12th in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway , then ran out of fuel in the waning laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to wind up 25th. He came into Sunday's cutoff race 12th in points and just one point ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch . "I feel like we've got pretty good speed," Earnhardt said. "We lost a little ... over the summer and I think we're gaining a little bit on it. We've still got some more to find." McMurray was disappointed in the outcome -- he was making his first appearance in the Chase -- but was pleased with what his team accomplished this season. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it into the Chase," he said. "The unfortunate part is we didn't run well enough the first two races; we ran great today. We got a lap down and then Matt (McCall, crew chief) did a really good job adjusting the car and getting it back to where we had a top five car; our pit crew did an awesome job, our team did a tremendous job today; we just didn't run well enough the first two races." Finishes of 16th and 14th in the first two Chase races put McMurray 11th in points headed into Dover, one point ahead of Earnhardt. Kevin Harvick dominated the race to vault his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team into the Contender Round. Busch, Earnhardt, McMurray and Aric Almirola completed the top five. "I really thought just being consistent would get us in and it was close, we just needed one more point," said McMurray . Bonus points for race wins, awarded for during the first 26 races and used to help determine seeding for the opening round, are not awarded after the first round. Therefore, the 12 drivers advancing into the Contender Round each have 3,000 points heading into next weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway .
RELATED: Meet all 16 drivers in the Chase JOLIET, Ill. -- Thursday's playoff-opening media day for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was graced by the arrival of two newcomers in the 16-driver field. Neither was new enough to need a name tag, but Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard both savored the spotlight that comes with their newfound championship eligibility. "Quite honestly, I've never paid attention to what happens at Chase Media Day," McMurray said as he made media rotations at The Murphy in downtown Chicago. "I don't know that I had any idea what all of this was. When we showed up today and took our photo out front when we initially got here, I thought we were literally here for a photo in front of this building and I wasn't sure why. And then when I walked in and saw all this -- amazing. It somewhat reminds you of a condensed version of what we do at Daytona every year." With the meet-and-greets out of the way, both first-timers settle down to the business end of their Chase debut this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway , site of Sunday's MyAFibRisk.com 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the first of 10 playoff races that will determine the Sprint Cup champion. Both found out quickly that the event is no ordinary race, as evidenced by the build-up and obligations before the Challenger Round opens. Both drivers participated in Chase Across North America activities Tuesday: McMurray loaded into Talladega to help a group of middle school students paint a car in Victory Lane, while Menard traveled to Martinsville for a parade and the key to the city. Both then traveled to Kansas Speedway for Wednesday's test session before arriving for Thursday's festivities in the Windy City. The Chase marks uncharted ground for both, but on-track activity and the normal flow of the weekend schedule should provide some familiarity. "I've never been in this position before, so I'm just taking it like I take every week with a busier week leading up to the event this week obviously," Menard said. "But ... I feel good about how we're approaching it. We're just going to put our heads down and go as far in this deal as we can." The wait for a Chase berth has been a lengthy one for McMurray , whose first premier-series start came roughly a year and a half before the 10-race playoff system debuted in 2004. Since then, his career has been dotted with Chase near-misses, but he secured his spot in the field as the top points-earner among non-winners. The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver doesn't see the zero in his win column as an impediment, citing the example of Ryan Newman last year in the first go-round for the new-look Chase. Newman weathered eliminations all the way to the championship round without a win in 2014, something McMurray said he's capable of replicating thanks to the No. 1 team's consistency this season. "For sure, it obviously has been a long time," McMurray said. "I'm really proud of our team and what we've been able to do to make the Chase. I think I'm most proud that we would've made it in any format. It wasn't necessarily that you're the last guy to get in. We were in the top 10 in points all year long and that's a huge accomplishment for us." The wait has been slightly less prolonged for Menard, who joined the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2007. He wound up as the final driver to qualify for the Chase, 17 points ahead of Aric Almirola . RELATED: Top quotes from Chase Media Day If the Richard Childress Racing driver has an X-factor, it could be from his cult following in social media circles. Though he's among a handful of drivers who aren't on Twitter, he said he's felt the modest groundswell of support from the loyal Menard faithful. "What is there -- 15 nations and one empire? Is that what they say?" Menard said, referring to both the Chase "driver nation" branding and the @PMenardEmpire Twitter account. "No, it's cool. I've actually met Jory, who does the Paul Menard Empire. He's been to a few races and I've met him. Then just randomly … somebody came up -- it was in Richmond -- and said they wanted to meet the emperor. So I signed an autograph. It's cool. I hear about it and it's a pretty cool deal."
RELATED: Full Richmond results RICHMOND, Va. -- There were no last-second heroics, no pit-road gambles or stunning strategy in an effort to beat the odds. For Jamie McMurray , Ryan Newman , Jeff Gordon , Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard , points positions proved crucial. And in the end, proved to be enough. The group collected the final five positions in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup by failing to fail, running well enough to earn the final berths in this year's 16-team field. "It was still stressful, because we had that last restart," Gordon, a four-time champion making his final Chase appearance, said after bringing his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet home seventh in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway . "It was nice not to have to really be sweating it." Gordon needed a finish of 17th or better to clinch. "I know this guy's happy," Gordon said as team owner Rick Hendrick eased up behind his driver to give him a congratulatory hug. "He was sweating it a little bit like the rest of us were. So that feels good to make him happy. This team, they deserve it." Hendrick, who has seen Gordon evolve from a promising young talent into one of the most successful competitors in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, provided a news flash: "Let me be the first to tell you," he said, "he's going to drive another year. He's not doing good enough, so he's got to go one more." Hendrick was kidding. Sort of. GALLERY: 2015 Chase drivers celebrate at Richmond McMurray locked in his first career Chase spot by simply taking the green flag to start the 400-lap event on the .75-mile track. Although he started 31st in the 43-car field, by night's end McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) had raced his way up to 13th. "I'm super relieved," McMurray said. "I've been the guy on the outside trying to fight my way in, and I've also been in this a couple of times and been knocked out at Richmond." Like McMurray , Menard ( Richard Childress Racing ) will be making his first Chase appearance when the 10-race playoff begins next week at Chicagoland Speedway . The excitement of qualifying was tempered a bit by a difficult night on the race track -- Menard finished 26th, three laps down to race winner Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). "We had a fast car, it just burned the left-front tire off after like 30, 40 laps and we started going backwards," said Menard. "Try to figure out what happened there." His No. 27 team wasn't the only one to have issues with the left front, he said. But others had no similar problems. "Some guys," he said, "obviously figured it out. "We've had a lot of good runs this year; obviously this wasn't one of them." Bowyer's Chase appearance will be his final showing with Michael Waltrip Racing -- the two-car organization will cease to exist after the '15 season. "I hate to say this but it's actually nice to go into the Chase the way we are; the pressure is off," Bowyer said. "Hell, we were trying to make the Chase, that's big, that's monumental for our organization and our team. "Let's just go have fun, let's get everything we can out of every single weekend and see what happens. Literally, the pressure is off until somehow, some way you're in the thing (for) two rounds or three rounds then all of a sudden the pressure kicks back up. But that's the neat thing about being in our situation, being part of this Chase. Right now, in the next three or four weeks, there is no pressure." Bowyer's status as a Chase participant was the most tenuous -- a slip could have opened the door for someone else to bolt past. His 10th-place finish proved more than enough to accomplish what was required. RELATED: Bowyer wants to end MWR run on a high note "At the beginning we weren't real great," crew chief Billy Scott admitted. "We had to work hard on it. Just stayed calm, it was a long race. After that we just kind of found a place and ran our race. "We were keeping an eye on guys that hadn't won and were running up front, where the guys were that we were racing in points and felt pretty comfortable with getting in on either side of that. "There was no need to gamble. We just ran a pretty conservative race and brought it home in one piece."
Last time Panthers coach visited shop veteran driver won Sprint All-Star Race CONCORD, N.C. -- It was the sort of game-day speech that Ron Rivera has been accustomed to delivering in his four seasons as an NFL head coach -- forceful, designed to inspire and motivate. Tuesday morning, though, his words didn't resonate inside the familiar setting of the Carolina Panthers' locker room but instead in an all-hands team meeting at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' NASCAR headquarters. Rivera's first visit to the Ganassi shop, in May of 2014, wound up being a roaring success. Just days after the Panthers' coach met the team and offered a speech about staying relevant in an evolving sport, Jamie McMurray found himself on Victory Lane in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. With results like those, McMurray might've been prompted to ask what took so long to book the return trip? RELATED: McMurray wins 2014 Sprint All-Star Race "We'll see, I guess, how it goes this weekend," McMurray said with a laugh, pointing toward Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "He's been a really good friend of (team co-owner Felix Sabates), and he's become a really great friend of our team's, and I've become a real big fan of his. When you watch on TV and watch other sports, I don't know that you appreciate everything that goes into it and how talented people are behind the scenes but he is an amazing guy and he is where he is because of his ability." With 19 of 36 Sprint Cup Series races in the books this year, Rivera's speech could almost be considered a slightly belated halftime pep talk. Either way, it comes at a pivotal time for the Ganassi team, which heads into Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, IMS, SiriusXM) with seven regular-season races left to bolster the credentials for both McMurray , the 2010 Brickyard winner, and teammate Kyle Larson in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. It's a spot Rivera was in last year with the Panthers, who rallied from a six-game losing streak midway through to win their final four regular-season games, win a division title and earn a playoff berth. After last weekend's race at New Hampshire, McMurray clings to the 11th spot in the 16-driver Chase Grid while Larson sits 21st in the series standings, having missed a race because of illness. Both drivers are still searching for their first victory in 2015. Rivera's speech was tailored to reach a different audience but the shared bond of teamwork bridged any potential gap between the motorsports world and professional football. That became evident last season when Rivera asked the Ganassi team for footage of the team's race-winning pit stop last May, intending to show his team and to illustrate how the Panthers could benefit from similar coordination and cooperation. It was at last year's All-Star event that Rivera learned that an 18-second pit stop seems fast in layman's terms only. The head coach also learned that the two sports have more in common that one might think. "There are a lot of parallels and first and foremost, it starts with teamwork," Rivera said. "Really, my message is to make sure everyone's doing what they want to do and everybody's doing what the group wants to do because at the end of the day, if somebody's not on board and doing the things that they need to do to give you a chance to win, you're not going to win. Also, the parallel being that last year as a football team, we started hot then had our problems. Same thing with these guys -- they started hot and have had their problems. "And I know at the end of the day, they've still got seven weeks left. They have every opportunity to get into the Chase for the Cup, so who knows. That's really the message, that they can control it. They control their own destiny and the truth of the matter is, on any given Sunday, they're the best race team and they've got a chance to win." After his nearly 20-minute talk, Rivera said he'd welcome the chance to return, adding that spending time in another professional sport helped to enhance his leadership skills. If the coach's presence remains a good-luck charm for the Nos. 1 and 42 Chevrolet teams, he may be called upon as a much more frequent visitor. "To have someone of that caliber available to you to talk to your team in a real-life situation, somebody they know and somebody they respect and understand, that speaks their language, we're really, really lucky to have an outsider like that come in with a little different perspective, but exactly on point," Ganassi said. "We've got seven weeks till the playoffs begin and we want to have both cars in." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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
Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes a pass around Jamie McMurray to clinch the 12th position and advance in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
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
Fourth-place finish at Richmond a sign of continued 2015 success Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RICHMOND, Va. -- Stock-car racing leaves no option for do-overs, and little room for regrets. Jamie McMurray had neither one after coming up short Sunday afternoon behind dominant race-winner Kurt Busch . McMurray made the most of a car better suited to long green-flag stints in the rain-delayed Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway , keeping pace with and making gains on Busch in the later stages of the race. But the timing of three caution flags in the final 50 laps conspired against the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet team, offering only short runs of green-flag racing near the end. Though McMurray faded to a fourth-place finish -- behind Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson -- by the checkered flag, he left Richmond without any of the nagging "what-ifs" that sometimes lead to sleepless nights. "I mean, when I look back at our race today, you go home and lay down tonight and you think about everything, I really ‑‑ there's nothing that I could have done any better," said McMurray , who led twice for four laps. "I just didn't have a car that was quick on the short run. I had one that would go at the end. When I look back at those restarts, if I could have gotten ahead of him, I still don't know I could have held him up. I thought as a team, driver, crew chief, we did a really good job today." Though the finish was just his second top-five of the season (the other being a runner-up effort last month in Phoenix), Sunday's race represented another building block for McMurray and new crew chief Matt McCall , serving in just his ninth race atop the pit box for the No. 1 camp. It's also another stride toward ending a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series losing skid that stands at 49 races, dating back to October 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway , site of the circuit's next race. McMurray said the communication between himself and the team has improved, but so have his chances of breaking back into Victory Lane, a step that would push him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs for the first time in his career. "You know, last year I thought was probably my best year in Cup racing, even though we didn't have the wins that we did in 2010," said McMurray , who did cash in with a win in the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race last May. "I thought consistently we were the best. When we had this crew chief change, I was a little bit nervous about what was going to happen. But Matt has done an exceptional job. Honestly our cars are probably better, are better this year than what they were last year, and he's done a really nice job of calling the races and giving me a really fun car to drive that's fast. “You know, honestly, I look at every week like we'll have a chance to win. The 4 (Harvick) and the 41 (Busch) are extremely quick, but I think we proved today that we have a team and a car capable of, put in the right position, to compete with those guys. I'm really happy with my team." According to McCall, in his first full season as a Sprint Cup crew chief, the feeling is mutual. "It's going great. He's easy to get along with, and that helps," McCall said. "He's the type of person that makes it really easy to communicate. He tells you what's wrong with it and we attempt to fix it. That's the way it's been going. I can't complain. We want to win races and that's what we're coming each week to do. Hope we keep pushing ahead and make that happen. "Fortunately, I feel like every week we roll in with equipment where we should have a legitimate chance to win if we can put all the pieces on the puzzle correctly." 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