By Mike Hembree
NASCAR Wire Service
DOVER, Del. – It was a double-departure Chase day for Chip Ganassi Racing.
CGR drivers Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray entered Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400, the first elimination race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, riding on the ragged edge. Larson, 12th in the Chase standings, was five points above the cut line, and McMurray, in 13th, was five points below.
Long before the end of Sunday’s 400-lap marathon at Dover International Speedway, both drivers saw their hopes to advance to the Chase second round essentially evaporate.
Chris Buescher, Tony Stewart, McMurray and Larson were eliminated Sunday. The second round of the Chase is scheduled to begin Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
McMurray’s chances went up in smoke – literally – as the engine in his Chevrolet expired on the frontstretch near the race’s halfway point. Larson lost power in his car early in the race, dropped a lap on pit road and then gave up more ground when the team was penalized for having too many crewmen over the wall as they tried to deal with Larson’s issues. To further cement his demise, Larson slapped the turn 3 wall on lap 182, which brought out the race’s third caution.
“It’s unfortunate that both the No. 42 (Larson) and the No. 1 had a problem today,” McMurray said in the garage. “But it is what it is, and that’s why we race. I’m proud of my team and proud of our guys and all the hard work they’ve put in. And it stinks that it’s over this way, but we get to race next week. So, we’ll come back and try to do it again.”
McMurray said it appeared that he and Austin Dillon would battle for a Chase spot as the race progressed. McMurray’s engine issue blocked that possible drama, and he ultimately finished 40th (last).
“But I’m proud of our whole organization from where we started the year to the point that we are at right now,” McMurray said. “When you run in the top 10 every week – and Kyle won at Michigan – we just have had great cars, and it stinks that it ended this way.”
McMurray, who dropped out of championship contention in the first round of the Chase for the second straight year, said a vibration was the first hint of trouble with his Chevy.
“It vibrated earlier in the race, and it went away,” he said. “And it’s weird because engine issues usually don’t go away. It felt like it had power, and then, I don’t know, about 40 laps before it finally blew up it just started vibrating real bad.”
Larson, who finished 25th, lost a lap because of the electrical problem but suffered a triple-whammy with the penalty for the team having too many crewmen over the wall and, later, the accident.
“I don’t know what happened with the battery or whatever,” Larson said. “I lost power and lost a lap. Then we had too many men over the wall. Really, if it had not been for that, we would have been all right because I was only a lap down. But it was a nice little present there for Austin by both Ganassi cars.”
Dillon, who finished eighth, was the final driver to make the 12-driver cut for the next Chase round.
“We came a long way from where we started the season,” Larson said. “We just didn’t have good luck again this year.”