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WWD: Pepsi 400

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How the race was won

Jamie McMurray
McMurray Jamie McMurray recovered from an early penalty and worked his way back into the top 10 by roughly lap 100. He stayed among or near the leaders the rest of the night before charging toward the front after late cautions, getting some help from his friends and edging Kyle Busch at the line to take the checkers.

Story of the race

The finish.

Teamwork, and lack thereof.

One early wreck.

Give 'em credit

McMurray. Big comeback from a technically correct but borderline penalty call leading to a dazzling last-lap charge, and the winless streak finally ends. McMurray shows some signs of fulfilling potential with Roush.

Kyle Busch. Heck of a day, especially after the Busch win that morning.

Kurt Busch. Nice run, nice job helping his kid brother. Substitute teammate for sibling, and same goes for Carl Edwards and even Greg Biffle.

Clint Bowyer (deserved a better finish), Jeff Gordon (nice job with a less-than-perfect car), Kasey Kahne (first top-10 since Daytona 500), Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson (typically solid runs), and David Gilliland and David Ragan (solid days for less-experienced guys) – though we're not sure how Gilliland's spin didn't cause a Big One.

Robby Gordon. He has finished between 10th and 17th in five of his last six races (though Sonoma could have and should have been much better). For a single-car effort, that's pretty impressive.

TNT. Its "Wide Open Coverage" was pretty solid, though Gordon haters probably were ready to vomit after all the Gordon/Pepsi tie-ins (still, despite our personal cola preferences, the Pepsi car is pretty cool). If the financial model works, all NASCAR broadcasts should use a similar, if tweaked, formula.

What were they thinking?

Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. No, this isn't about the wreck itself, but rather their postrace comments regarding it. Denny, just maybe Tony wasn't trying to run you over. And Tony, just maybe Denny, while leading the race, wasn't trying to hose his own teammate. It was a tough situation, but chill a bit, guys. (To be fair, Hamlin did appear to at least try to be a bit diplomatic – unlike Stewart.)

NASCAR. Its qualifying rules are tragically absurd. Boris Said (or one of those final qualifiers who never got on track) should have won the pole, but the rule book won't allow for suspending qualifying, only canceling it. That rule book needs to change. And someone needs to apologize to Boris Said. And refund his entry fee.

The Hendrick boys. Either for not helping Kyle Busch, or for Gordon not acknowledging him postrace (if that's indeed what happened, as some of our readers already are disputing Busch's account), or for Kyle not keeping all this to himself (though he had the right to be frustrated) afterward. Sure, Busch barely is a teammate anymore, but Gordon and Co. really would rather a Roush Fenway Ford win?

Was Juan Pablo Montoya out of control when he slammed Kevin Harvick into the wall? Or was it just another racin' deal like Jeff Green getting into Kasey Kahne? Incidentally, doesn't it seem like Green has had a lot of them racin' deals lately?

Better luck next time

Boris Said
Said Said. From probable Pepsi 400 pole to going home. That's rough. Include the other go-or-go-homers who were unfairly sent home when rain washed out the end of qualifying.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. He has Stewart and Hamlin to thank for his awful day.

Bowyer. Did that electrical issue cost him a win? It certainly didn't help.

Scott Riggs, Sterling Marlin, David Stremme (who probably has only himself or his team, but not Paul Menard, to blame), Tony Raines, Brian Vickers (he can't be happy with Joe Nemechek) and others having decent runs until bad luck intervened.

Harvick. Another Montoya fan born.

And, of course, Stewart and Hamlin.

By the way …

There was no Big One on Saturday. One or two Small Ones, to be sure, and some close calls, but no massive, field-thinning wrecks – though one could argue Stewart, Hamlin and Junior being taken out in one wreck was a Big One by a different standard.

Anyone else amused by the commercial making fun of debris cautions?

Grading the race

Some believe one need only watch the beginning and end of a NASCAR race. Saturday was an example of that. This one moved along at a good pace, but after some early fireworks, the middle laps were very dry – save for a couple of interesting storylines developing. But things got interesting when varying pit strategies came into play after a relatively late caution, and the finish, of course, was breathtaking. This race wasn't as good as they come, but the finish was. And that (along with some nice verbal sparring and a little team drama), yet again, allows fans to go home happy. Grade: B

From the source

Jamie McMurray: "I'm like, 'Who won?' And they were like, 'You did.' "

Kyle Busch: "Walking down pit road saying congratulations to Jeff Gordon I got blown off so I guess I'm the outsider looking in now, and I'm probably not going to be invited into the team meetings next week. I think bliss is over at Hendrick Motorsports for Kyle Busch. We'll get ready for 2008."