Early tire rub proves costly for Jamie McMurray at Martinsville Speedway

Logan Whitton/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Early in Sunday’s STP 500, Jamie McMurray found himself in a tricky situation.

McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet was fast, running inside of the top 10 for most of the race’s first stage. But contact with defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson left the 2010 Daytona 500 champion with a severe tire rub.

With less than 30 laps remaining until the end of the race’s first stage, McMurray was forced to make a difficult decision.  Pit to repair the damage, losing multiple laps in the process, or stay out and risk a blown tire?

In the end, the Joplin, Missouri native elected to stay out.

Less than 10 laps later, he found himself crashing driver’s side-first into the .526-mile oval’s Turn 3 wall.

“I think the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) got into the left rear and it knocked the body on the tire,” McMurray said. “I was kind of leaving it up to the team whether we pit or not because I knew they could get a better idea of what it looked like and maybe where it was hitting the tire. And then it somewhat quit smoking, which made me think maybe the body had relieved itself, but then I blew a left-rear tire going into the corner.

“It’s like a no-win. If you stay out and you blow a tire and you wreck, your day is done. If you pit here and you lose two or three laps, I don’t think you can get those back. So, we made the decision to stay out and ended up blowing a tire.”

The resulting crash resulted in a 38th-place finish after just 105 of the race’s 500 laps for the 15-year veteran, dropping him back to ninth in the championship standings after earning a lone point in the event. But despite the setback, McMurray took the poor day in stride.

“You know what, it’s a really long year and you have days like today, but there will be other days that it maybe should be bad and things work out and you get a good finish,” McMurray said. “It’s frustrating, but I’m just really glad that we’ve run well again and the cars are fast and go on to a new repave next week.”

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