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"I felt like more guys would make that call, and so I thought it was worth a shot to get out there," the crew chief said. "When we rolled off pit road and saw what everybody did, I looked to the guy beside me and I'm like, 'I can't believe we are the only ones that did that."
The decision led to a surprising late turn of events, and the tense finish in which McMurray and Bowyer took turns trying to chase down Kenseth provided a nice makeup after Saturday night's washout.
In a season of struggles, McMurray was just happy with his first top five.
"Every week it's been something," he said, "so it's nice to have some good luck."
Bowyer remained third in points and gave Michael Waltrip Racing its second straight top-two run following teammate Martin Truex Jr.'s road win last week in Sonoma, Calif.
Johnson was a favorite after strong practices and a third-place qualifying run, and he quickly picked up where he left off to become the story on Sunday with the best car after several early lead changes.
The race's biggest incident came on lap 49 when Kurt Busch spun out Keselowski near turn 1, triggering an accident that red-flagged the race. Greg Biffle slammed into Keselowski, lifting his car off the asphalt and leaving both Fords mangled.
Somehow, both returned to finish 33rd and 34th respectively.
But at the time of the wreck Johnson had already taken his first lead of the race and appeared headed to a walkover victory before Ratcliff's risk resulted in Kenseth's reward.
"With everything being equal, I still thought we were a second-place car when we were at our best," Kenseth said. "There were times when we ran a little better than (Johnson) but I don't know what he was doing up front, if he was saving fuel or what. We still had an excellent car."
|Coll of Charleston||53|
|William & Mary||57|
|(17) Florida State||110|
|(9) Oregon State||68||FINAL|
|(13) Arizona State||57|
|(12) North Carolina||67|