Bring on Martinsville.
Jamie McMurray cleared Kyle Busch off Turn 2 after a restart on Lap 314 and pulled away from Busch to win Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of McMurray’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in 2002.
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place Denny Hamlin, however, both dodged trouble and finished third and fourth, respectively, to set up a showdown Oct. 24 at Martinsville, a short track the two drivers have dominated the past four years.
Together, Johnson and Hamlin have won the past eight races at the 1.526-mile speedway, Hamlin the last two. Hamlin enters the sixth race in the Chase 41 points behind the four-time defending series champion.
McMurray won for the third time this season, the second time at Charlotte and the sixth time in his career, completing unfinished business from the Coca-Cola 600 in May, when he ran second to Kurt Busch.
Greg Biffle finished fifth, and Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, David Reutimann and David Ragan completed the top 10.
Fighting a loose handling condition, Johnson looped his No. 48 Chevrolet off Turn 4 on Lap 34. On Lap 38, he restarted 37th but gradually moved to the front. Ultimately, Johnson regained track position when he stayed out under caution on Lap 128—while most of the lead-lap cars came to the pits.
Johnson restarted fifth on Lap 132 and worked his way up to third during a long cycle of green-flag pit stops that ended on Lap 179. A caution for Marcos Ambrose’s spin off Turn 4 put all the lead-lap cars back on the same pit sequence and solidified Johnson’s position in the top five.
Hamlin dodged a Lap 2 wreck but brought his No. 11 Toyota to the pits with flat-spotted tires. Like Johnson, Hamlin restarted from the back of the field and patiently worked his way forward.
Busch, who finished 1.866 seconds behind McMurray, led 165 of the 334 laps. McMurray led 44 laps and Johnson 15.