Four straight for McMurray at The Rock

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Jamie McMurray raced to a record-tying fourth straight Busch Series win at the North Carolina Speedway on Saturday, while a feud between third-place finisher Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon reignited.
   McMurray, in the No. 30 Dodge, passed Harvick for the lead on lap 177 of the 197-lap event, when Gordon forced Harvick up next to the wall going into turn three.
   "It looked like Robby was trying to get his lap back," said McMurray, who tied a record by Mark Martin of four straight wins at the 1.017-mile speedway. "He was going as hard as he could to get his lap back and it shoved up Kevin up out of the way.
   "It was perfect for me to enter the corner, stay on the bottom and pass. They're not always teammates -- we all know that -- but I don't think it was anything intentional Robby was trying to do."
   Harvick and Gordon, teammates for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, have a history of conflict. Harvick held Gordon up in a similar matter in a Cup Series race at Sears Point in 2001.
   "We had a shot at the end before we got shoved up out of the way and finished third," said Harvick. "That wasn't a pass for the lead. That was a lap-down car sliding up into the leader. You have to ask the guy holding on to the steering wheel what happened.
   "I haven 't talked to him. That's a waste of air. You guys (in the media) go talk to him. See what kind of stupid answer he gives."
   Martin Truex Jr., driving a No. 8 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., also passed Harvick on his way to a second-place finish. It was a repeat of last fall's Rockingham finish with McMurray and Truex finishing 1-2.
   "Just like last year, we needed about five more laps," said Truex, who led a race-high 68 circuits. "The Bass Pro Shops car was the class of the field most of the day. It was a good run for us and we led a lot of laps. If we keep running like this, we will win a lot of races."
   Michael Waltrip finished fourth, just six days removed from a metal-crunching, car-flipping accident in the Daytona 500. Former series champion David Green rounded out the top five.
   Johnny Benson won Friday's pole position on Friday driving the No. 1 Dodge that McMurray had won the last two Busch races here with, but was sent to the back of the field after failing post-qualifying inspection. His day further disintegrated when he blew a tire on lap 66 after being hit by Regan Smith.
   Despite the troubles, Benson stayed on the lead lap, posting a ninth-place finish.
   Troubles also beset early leader Greg Biffle, who blew an engine on lap 80.
   Biffle finished 38th in the final rundown. Problems persisted for other drivers as well.
   Rookie Aaron Fike lost control on lap 164 with his car resting between turns 3 and 4. With the car stopped in the racing groove, it was t-boned driver's side by the oncoming car of Hermie Sadler.
   Kenny Wallace was another victim of a hard crash as his No. 91 machine was shot straight into the wall, crossing the finish line after contact from Ashton Lewis.
   Wallace's brother Mike, also a participant in the race, was unhappy with the ending.
   "I didn't see any particular reason why they had to wreck at the start-finish line," said Mike Wallace. "The 46 ran into his right-rear quarterpanel and turned him. I expressed my view to Ashton. It was an uncalled for move. It's not like they were going for the win. Had it been for the win that would be something different."
   All the drivers were awake and alert after the accidents, but Fike was taken to a local hospital for further observation.
   Ten lead changes among seven drivers highlighted the race, which was slowed by four cautions for an average speed of 112.450 mph.
   For McMurray, he scored a fifth career Busch Series victory. The 27-year-old from Joplin, Mo. is only one victory behind the all-time record of five wins at one track, held joinly by the late Dale Earnhardt at Daytona from 1990-94 and Jack Ingram at South Boston (Va.) Speedway in 1985-86.
   "We were junk before we made a decision to short-pit and stay on the track," said McMurray. "We made a lot of adjustments on the car. We were bad on the short runs, but we got our car balanced. Once we got the lead it was hard on me. When you're out in the clean, this place is an easy place to overdrive.
   "I drove as hard as I could every lap. I was about sideways. I wasn't babying the car. When I come to Rockingham I have a grin on my face."
   Harvick, who is running a limited Busch Series schedule now holds the lead in the tour's standings by five points over his other RCR Nextel Series teammate Johnny Sauter. The leader amongst regular Busch Series competitors is third place Green, runner-up in the series last season. He finds himself 28 points ahead of Bobby Hamilton, Jr., the next highest ranking series regular.