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Jamie McMurray is of a different ‘state’ of mind than Carl Edwards

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Missouri is known as the “Show Me State,” but Jamie McMurray says that only extends so far.

As in Carl Edward’s recent sudden retirement.

Both McMurray and Edwards are Missouri natives, Jamie Mac from Joplin and Cousin Carl from Columbia, about 235 miles away to the northeast.

During Tuesday’s NASCAR Media Day, McMurray was asked if would ever follow his fellow statesman’s lead and abruptly walk away from the sport.

“Um, I don’t know if the state you’re born in really has anything to do with the retirement factor – seems like a pretty big stretch,” McMurray said with a big laugh. “I’m going to try to link those, but I don’t think I can.”

But like pretty much everyone else in the sport, McMurray admitted he “was completely taken aback” by his fellow Missourian’s decision. “Maybe there is someone in here that knew, but I was blindsided by that.

“Honestly, I hope that more comes of that story. I didn’t actually watch the press conference. I read some quotes from it just because I was curious, right? I don’t really know Carl enough to call him and ask him outright. My gut tells me that maybe we’ll hear more later on. But, yeah, I was pretty taken back by that.”

One thing McMurray was not taken back by was Monday’s announcement of the enhancements to the points system in NASCAR’s three premier race series.

“Not completely surprised,” McMurray said. “Over the past two or three years we’ve made a lot of changes to the cars and we’ve kind of worn that dial out.

“This, to me, was just the next step. From what I understand and from what I have been told, I think all of the teams that were involved with NASCAR in making the decisions; everyone was kind of pulling the rope in the same direction.

“So, I’m not completely shocked by that because I think you had a large group of grown-ups in a room that all were trying to get the same thing accomplished.”

The driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS is looking forward to the new points format.

“I like the strategy that’s going to come from the format,” McMurray said. “And the best way to describe that is if we go to a track that it rains a lot and they have to have a competition caution, it’s great when the caution happens to fall 10 laps before that because you get some strategy.

“You get people that put tires on. Sometimes the leaders don’t. If it’s a track where the tires are really important, it creates a little bit of excitement, right? You have a lot of passing going on. Then the caution comes out 10 laps later and you get to see if those guys all pit. Did they make up enough ground?  So, I like the fact that we’re going to have that every week.

“I also like the fact that at the plate races (where) I have been on the side of riding in the back. It might be one of the most boring things in your life to ride seven seconds behind a pack at Daytona or Talladega, just to get in a wreck at the end. Even though you’ve done all the right things, you still get caught up in the wreck.

“I like that the Duels (at Daytona) and the races are going to pay for the segments. I also like the fact that at any track that we go to, if you run really well all day long, you’re rewarded for that. And if for some reason your engine does blow up or you get caught-up in a wreck at the end, if you ran well all day long you’re going to get something out of that. I can’t find any negative side to it.”

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Matt Kenseth wrecks out of Auto Club 400 on late restart

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Matt Kenseth crashed out of the Auto Club 400 on a restart with 16 laps remaining in the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Kenseth had restarted fourth following a caution for an incident involving Gray Gaulding.

Kenseth was in the middle groove exiting Turn 2 when he was tapped from behind by Martin Truex Jr. and slid toward the inside wall, which his No. 20 Toyota hit hard. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was cleared and released from the infield care center.

It is Kenseth’s third DNF in the first five races of the season and his second in as many races. He had four in all of 2016.

Kenseth entered the race 20th in the point standings.

Martin Truex Jr. has commanding performance in Stage 2 win at Fontana

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Martin Truex Jr. has taken over as the most dominating driver in today’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

After pole-sitter Kyle Larson won the first 60-lap stage, Truex won Stage 2. During the session, Truex’s car showed supremacy with nearly a seven-second lead in the closing laps of the stage.

Truex has now won three of the last six stages, having captured both stages two weeks ago en route to his overall race win at Las Vegas.

Larson is in second place, followed by Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

There has been just two cautions in the race – both coming in Stage 1.

We now move to the final stage, an 80-lap shootout to determine the race winner.

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Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Auto Club 400 at Fontana

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Pole-sitter Kyle Larson is almost one-third of the way to winning Sunday’s Auto Club 400. The California native won Stage 1 of the race at his home-state Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

Larson (43 laps) and Martin Truex Jr. (12 laps) have led the majority of the laps during the opening 60-lap segment. That segment will be followed by another 60-lap segment, and then an 80-lap final section for 200 laps (400 miles) around the 2-mile low-banked track.

It was Larson’s first stage win of the 2017 season under the new enhanced scoring format in the NASCAR Cup Series. Larson has finished runner-up in each of the last three races and four of the last five (dating back to the 2016 season finale). He has just one career Cup win, last year at Michigan.

Truex is running second, followed by Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch.

Sixth through 10th are Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin.

Each of the top 10 finishers in Stage 1 will earn stage points in the NASCAR Cup standings.

Two incidents of note occurred early in the race, both involving Brad Keselowski:

* On the first lap, Keselowski’s car suffered left rear damage when several cars were involved in an accordion-like wreck. Others involved included Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, but there was no caution called.

* Keselowski continued on without repairing the damage and was spun out on Lap 3 when he was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson, causing further damage to Keselowski’s Ford Fusion. The caution came out for Laps 5 through 7. Johnson claimed there was little or no damage over his team radio, but Johnson has continued to have struggles this weekend. He’s running 32nd, one lap down.

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Bad race start results in damaged cars for Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick

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A bad start by the inside lane at the beginning of the Auto Club 400 resulted in damage to the cars of Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.

Denny Hamlin struggled to get to speed at the drop of the green flag, causing the first few rows of cars to bunch up. It resulted in Newman making contact with Keselowski’s left rear and causing damage. Harvick then ran into Newman as the inside bottlenecked.

On Lap 4, after falling back to 17th, Keselowski was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson on the front stretch, which sent the No. 2 car spinning through the infield grass. Keselowski, the Atlanta winner, was 19th and the first car a lap down when the first stage ended.

During pit stops in the resulting caution, large amounts of tape were put on the front bumper and grille of Harvick’s car and the right-front fender of Newman’s.

With 35 laps left in the first 60-lap stage, Harvick was forced to pit for a flat right-rear tire. He now runs in 28th, a lap down. Newman, who won last week at Phoenix, a lap down in 22nd.

Johnson, a six-time Auto Club winner and the defending winner, was told his No. 48 had damage that could easily be fixed in the pits.  He runs in 20th a lap down. Johnson is winless this season.