TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- Jamie McMurray was the unlikely winner of an uncharacteristically dull race at Talladega Superspeedway, where a ban on bump-drafting forced most competitors to treat the event as a slow Sunday drive.
The day started with a stern warning from NASCAR president Mike Helton against the aggressive driving that has turned Talladega into the most exciting track on the circuit. What followed was an anesthetized first 450 miles, with long periods of single-file traffic and no driver willing to defy NASCAR's order not to bump through the corners.
But the action picked up with roughly 20 laps remaining, and with it came the typical Talladega mayhem. Ryan Newman's harrowing crash with five laps to go left him upside down in the grass, and NASCAR needed a stoppage of almost 13 minutes to cut him from the car.
That set up a two-lap sprint to the finish, and that was halted when championship contender Mark Martin went flipping across the track in his own spectacular crash.
The race ended under caution, with McMurray in Victory Lane for the first time in 86 races. Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, likely wrapped up his NASCAR-record fourth-consecutive championship because of all the late action.
Because Johnson spent most of the race puttering around the back of the pack, he was stuck back in the mid-20s when Newman crashed. Crew chief Chad Knaus sensed a lengthy delay and quickly called Johnson in for gas -- a decision that may have clinched the title.
When cars ahead of him in the running order began to run out of gas because of the red-flag delay, Johnson vaulted up in the standings. The final finishing order showed him in eighth, but he was adamant he finished sixth.
NASCAR wasn't even sure, and was still determining the final order more than an hour after McMurray took his first checkered flag since Daytona in July 2007.
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