Wreck ruins McMurray’s day: Twenty laps beyond the halfway point in Sunday’s USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, Pepsi 400 winner Jamie McMurray’s tire ripped apart, and his hopes of gaining on Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the points standings unraveled at the same time. McMurray, who entered the race 13th in points and 49 behind Earnhardt in 12th, experienced a succession of problems that moved him farther from the last Chase-eligible position. After scraping the wall 30 laps earlier, McMurray shredded a tire and smacked the Turn 2 wall on Lap 154 — and spent more than 50 laps in the garage for repairs. “I got into the wall about 30 laps before that and knocked the fender in, so the car got real tight,” McMurray said as the No. 26 Ford crew worked on the car. “I had to commit to the high side, and I got back into the wall the corner before that and I knew that I had a tire down so I was trying to get slowed down enough. I hit the wall, the tire came apart, and it ripped the oil line and stuff off, so we’re going to have to get it repaired so we can get it back out and run around and get as many points as we can.” McMurray lost two spots in the standings, to Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.

Frustrated Gordon: After winning at Chicagoland Speedway last year, Jeff Gordon was “frustrated” after his ninth-place finish Sunday. “I thought we were going to be a lot better than that, I’ll admit,” Gordon said. “When we dropped the green, I was hoping we were going to be kind of like we were last year and march our way to the front. But we never did.” The rest of the Nextel Cup Series field seems to be catching up with Hendrick Motorsports, the team that dominated the first half of the season. “Right now, we’re leading the points, but we’ve got to be better for sure,” Gordon said.

Da Bears play fast, too: Race grand marshall Lovie Smith, coach of the Chicago Bears, was attending his first NASCAR race, but that doesn’t mean the runner-up coach from the 2007 Super Bowl is oblivious to the sport. “I’m a sports fan,” Smith said Sunday. “I know when you crown a winner, and I know how you start a race.” Smith confessed that he sometimes drives faster than he should on the highway. “One thing we do with the Chicago Bears is play fast,” he said. “I’m excited to see guys out there [on the racetrack] go as fast as they do without breaking the law.”

Combined dispatches

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