Jamie McMurray was relevant for the first time this season.
After failing to finish better than 16th through the first six races, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver powered his No. 1 Chevrolet to a third-place finish in Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was his best finish since placing second in the spring race at Talladega last year.
The result came a day after he spun in the Xfinity race at the 1.5-mile track and managed to finish seventh.
“The track is pretty treacherous when you get out of the groove,” McMurray said. “Obviously, I spun out yesterday in the Xfinity race, so I learned not to go up there, but it was a really good day for our Cessna/McDonald’s Chevrolet. We really struggled this year and especially on the 1.5-mile (tracks). I’m really proud of everybody for the car that we had and to be able to put the whole race together. The off-weekend (last weekend) for us couldn’t have come at a better time.”
McMurray’s result is his first top 10 since he finished sixth at Phoenix last November.
Attrition and multiple wrecks helped McMurray and many of the drivers who finished in the top 20.
Erik Jones placed fourth for his first top five of the season and his fourth top 10.
Jones’ No. 20 Toyota led 64 laps, his most on an intermediate track.
“I don’t know that we really had enough for Kyle (Busch) or Kevin (Harvick),” Jones said. “They were really fast, but overall I thought we were a third-place car. Jamie had some tires here at the end, and we couldn’t really do much with them. We didn’t qualify where we wanted to this weekend. It was kind of a – kind of a downer coming into Sunday, but I knew we had a good race car and you know we showed that today. A big step up.”
Darrell Wallace Jr. benefited from pit strategy to finish eighth for his first top 10 since the Daytona 500.
William Byron, after starting from the rear due to an engine change, earned his first career Cup top 10, placing 10th. He is the last Hendrick Motorsports driver to earn a top 10 this season.
“It was really good for us to get a top 10,” Byron said. “Once the sun came out we weren’t quite as good, I don’t think, but (for) starting in the back this was definitely a good day for us. We had a lot of adversity and kept having to go to the back. … It obviously takes a lot of things to happen. We didn’t quite have the speed we wanted to. We were really good in practice, but I think some of our weaknesses showed up when the rubber laid down on the track a little bit on the bottom groove. Overall it was a pretty good day and we can definitely build on this.”
Other notable finishes:
— Trevor Bayne, 12th: Best finish since the Daytona 500 (13th).
— Ty Dillon, 13th: First top 15 of year, first since Phoenix last November.
— Michael McDowell, 14th: Best finish since Daytona 500 (ninth).
— Matt DiBenedetto, 16th: Best result since eighth-place finish in last season’s Brickyard 400 (eighth).
— Kasey Kahne, 17th: Best finish with Leavine Family Racing.
— Ross Chastain, 18th: Career-best Cup finish in eighth start.
— Cole Whitt, 19th: Best finish since placing 12th in last season’s Brickyard 400.
— Gray Gaulding, 20th: Second 20th-place finish of year (Daytona)
— Landon Cassill, 21st: Best finish since placing 20th at Chicagoland last September; Ties best finish for StarCom Racing in nine races (Daytona).