Charlotte: McMurray takes shock win

Jamie McMurray pulled off the NASCAR shock of the season by winning the Winston Cup round at Charlotte just two races after stepping up to the top division for the injured Sterling Marlin

Charlotte: McMurray takes shock win

Team owner Chip Ganassi gave McMurray the chance to prepare for his first full Winston Cup season in 2003 when veteran Marlin hurt his neck in the Kansas race two weeks ago.

McMurray finished 26th in his debut at Talladega last week, then started fifth thanks to Marlin's points position on Sunday after qualifying was rained out on Friday morning.

McMurray hung in the top 10 through the first half of the race, he took the lead through a round of green-flag pit stops, then skillfully battled veteran Bobby Labonte through two caution restarts.

Labonte tried to pressure the newcomer through traffic, but McMurray raced with excellent tactical savvy. Tony Stewart, who appeared faster, burned the tyres off his car and fell back. McMurray, miracle accomplished, beat Labonte by 0.350sec.

"I don't believe it," McMurray said. "It's really a hard situation, with Sterling getting hurt and everything. This is my worst track. They took a chance on me. I hadn't won in Trucks or Busch. They put me in first-class equipment, and I made the most of it tonight."

By winning only his second race, McMurray has taken a Winston Cup record. Kevin Harvick was the previous record-holder for the earliest career win, taking victory on his third time out at Atlanta in taking the place of Dale Earnhardt, killed at Daytona two years ago.

Johnny Rutherford won a qualifier at Daytona in his first NASCAR start in 1963. At the time, the race counted for points, and thus Rutherford could technically be considered NASCAR's most sudden winner. But this was the pre-Winston Cup era.

Stewart continues to lead the points, now by 97 over Jimmie Johnson, with Mark Martin dropping 122 behind with a fading engine on Sunday.

The race began more than three hours late because of rain and was finished under the lights.

Jamie McMurray Dodge
Bobby Labonte Pontiac
Tony Stewart Pontiac
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet
Rusty Wallace Ford
Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet
Jeff Burton Ford
Ryan Newman Ford
Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet
Dave Blaney Ford

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