INDIANAPOLIS — Juan Pablo Montoya once again had victory within reach at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then questionable strategy cost him first the lead, and ultimately the race.
The benefactor of Sunday's gaffe was Jamie McMurray, Montoya's teammate at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, who earned a spot in the history books with his surprise victory.
McMurray joined Jimmie Johnson (2006) and Dale Jarrett (1996) as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and The Brickyard 400 in the same season by capitalizing on Montoya's collapse.
"I am just shocked that I won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year," said McMurray, who was looking for a job for 2010 at this time last season and was only hired to drive the No. 1 Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing right before the November season finale.
"It's been an unbelievable year."
The victory also gave team owner Chip Ganassi a rare trifecta: He's the only car owner to win the Daytona 500, The Brickyard and the Indianapolis 500 in the same season.
"I need oxygen!" the jubilant car owner said from pit road. "I don't know what to say. My heart goes out to Juan, he had a great day, too.
"But I'll tell you, this is a big, big day for our team."
Montoya led 86 of the 160 laps but gave up the lead when a debris caution with 23 laps remaining sent the field to pit road. Crew chief Brian Pattie called for four tires, but the first six drivers off pit road only took two.
The strategy put McMurray out front on the restart with 18 laps left, while Montoya was mired in seventh. Trying hard to force his Chevrolet through traffic and back to the front, he lost control and crashed hard into the wall with 15 laps left.
"I don't know what happened to Juan, he obviously had the dominant car again, and it's horrible the luck he's having," a sympathetic McMurray said in Victory Lane.
Kevin Harvick slid past McMurray at about the same moment to take over the lead, but caution was called for Montoya's wreck, and McMurray moved back out front on the restart with 11 laps remaining.
While Montoya, who drove his battered car directly to the garage and declined comment, was fuming in the motorhome lot, McMurray was sailing to victory in his second crown jewel race of the season.
"When Juan was leading and I was in second, I am a big believer in fate, and I thought this was just the way it is meant to be," McMurray said. "I won the 500, Dario (Franchitti) won the Indy 500 and Juan is gonna win this race. I really thought it was his day.
"Just shows you to never give up and just drive your heart out on every lap."
Montoya, who started from the pole Sunday, led 116 laps last year until a late speeding penalty cost him the victory.
He wound up 32nd after Sunday's crash.
Harvick finished second for Richard Childress Racing, Greg Biffle was third in a Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing and was followed by RCR's Clint Bowyer and two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart.
Jeff Burton, the third RCR entry, was sixth. Carl Edwards in a Ford was seventh and was followed by Kyle Busch in the highest-finishing Toyota, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano and Kurt Busch, who in 10th was the highest-finishing Dodge.
■ Johnson's quest for a third straight Brickyard 400 title was derailed by handling problems. After qualifying second, Johnson fought an understeer problem, something his crew never could quite figure out. He dropped to 22nd after pitting for 15 seconds on lap 67 and wound up 22nd, one spot ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, a four-time race winner.