Sunday, February 22, 2004

McMurray capitalizes on drivers' distraction

Auto racing notebook

The Associated Press

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Jamie McMurray used the latest scrape between Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon to drive into the North Carolina Speedway record books.

McMurray won his fourth consecutive Busch series race at The Rock on Saturday, passing Harvick for the lead with 20 laps to go when Harvick got tied up with Gordon.

The victory in the Goody's Headache Powder 200 tied McMurray with Mark Martin, who swept the Busch races here in 1996 and 1997.

"I remember watching Mark win here before I was even racing stock cars," McMurray said. "I am not big on milestones, but I'll take it."

McMurray earned his first win here in 2002, then swept both events last year. The Busch record of five straight wins at any track is held by Dale Earnhardt at Daytona and Jack Ingram at South Boston.

After taking the lead, McMurray still had to hold off a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. over the final five laps. McMurray's Dodge beat Truex's Chevrolet to the finish by about two car lengths.

The fourth and final caution of the race set up the ending, and began when Aaron Fike crashed into the turn 3 wall. As his car sat idling, Hermie Sadler drove straight into Fike's driver-side door.

Fike was transported to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons.

When the field resumed racing, Harvick was the leader, McMurray was second and Gordon, Harvick's Nextel Cup teammate at Richard Childress Racing, was a lap down.

Harvick tried to pass him, Gordon tried to hold him off, and McMurray pounced.

"It looked like Robby was trying to get his lap back and he shoved Kevin up out of the way," McMurray said.

Harvick, who drives the Busch series car for RCR, ended up third. Gordon, who owns his own Busch team, finished 14th.

"That was a lapped-down car sliding into a leader," Harvick said. "You'll have to ask the guy holding the steering wheel. I haven't talked to him, it's a waste of air."

Gordon said there was no post-race discussion - just a non-friendly gesture from Harvick.

"He told me I was No. 1," Gordon joked. "He does that every week."

KAHNE'S READY: Rookie Kasey Kahne will start today's Subway 400 from the third spot, in the No. 9 Dodge with the same team Bill Elliott had in November when he won at North Carolina Speedway. Although Elliott later gave up the seat, he has helped Kahne prepare for the 1.017-mile oval.

"We tested here three or four weeks ago, and Bill came here and helped out a little bit," Kahne said.

All of Evernham Motorsports likes its chances today. Jeremy Mayfield, who led 96 laps in the fall before finishing third, qualified sixth, and six of the top eight cars in the field are Dodges.

PIT STOPS: Rusty Wallace, in a career-worst 99-race winless drought, had the fastest speeds in both of Saturday's practices. He starts fourth today. ... Reigning series champion Matt Kenseth said Roush Racing has determined what caused the engine failures in teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Burton last weekend in Daytona and is confident the problems are corrected.

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