Auburn car caps off an Auburn weekend
by Joe Medley
Oct 20, 2013 | 10154 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The top three finishers on the last lap. Jamie McMurray (1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) and Austin Dillon (14). NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 with the running of the Camping World RV Sales 500.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
The top three finishers on the last lap. Jamie McMurray (1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) and Austin Dillon (14). NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 with the running of the Camping World RV Sales 500. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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TALLADEGA -- Is it a sign, Auburn fans?

The term “NASCAR” is often used as a signal in the hurry-up, no-huddle offense, after all.

Maybe the “Gus Bus” has a drafting partner.

At the very least, the outcome of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Talladega capped off a great weekend to be an Auburn fan. Jamie McMurray, running the No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet with a special Auburn-themed paint scheme, won Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500.

“War Eagle!!!” read the tweet on Auburn University’s official Twitter page, @AuburnU, moments after the race. “@jamiemcmurray and the No. 1 Cessna/Auburn University Chevrolet wins @TalladegaSuperS!”

The race ended fewer than 24 hours after Auburn’s football team finished off a 45-41 upset Texas A&M in one of Saturday’s most-talked-about games.

Fallout from Auburn’s landmark victory in football ran nose to tail with Sunday’s race. The new Associated Press Top 25 came out just before the race, showing that Auburn shot up 13 spots to No. 11.

The USA Today and Harris Interactive polls came out during the race, marking the Tigers’ first ranking in those polls this season. Auburn was No. 17 in the USA Today poll and No. 15 in the Harris poll.

Sunday’s race wasn’t the first time an Auburn-themed car ran at Talladega. Michael Waltrip has raced in Auburn and Alabama paint schemes in Talladega’s spring races, after the schools won the past four national titles.

Auburn won in 2010, and Waltrip raced an Auburn-themed car in the spring race of 2011.

McMurray’s black car had the interlocking AU logo on its white hood and top Sunday because sponsor Cessna Aircraft is an Auburn business partner. The school did not pay for the logos to be on the car.

Who knew the timing would work out so perfectly?

Corny comparisons, start your engines!

Auburn, which suffered a 3-9 season in 2012, wasn’t ranked entering the season and didn’t break into a major poll until last week. Now, the Tigers are 6-1 and ranked in every major poll.

McMurray isn’t among the 13 drivers in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, the sport’s postseason. He didn’t have enough points entering the final 10 races to qualify but won the Chase’s sixth race.

He was 19th in the race field after 130 laps, nearly three quarters of the race, Sunday but took the lead late.

Auburn was 10 points down at 14:17 of the fourth quarter at College Station, but took the lead with 1:19 to play.

McMurray held off one of his sports brightest stars, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the final laps.

Auburn sacked reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, A&M’s quarterback, on fourth down and 13 to end the Aggies’ final scoring threat.

As for McMurray, he’s not a likely Auburn fan. He said during Sunday’s postrace news conference that he’s “not a huge college football fan.” He even expressed disappointment that he didn’t get his most consistent sponsor, McDonald’s, to victory lane.

He did not watch the Auburn-A&M game.

“It was Halloween night in the motorhome lot,” he said. “I had a 3-year-old to dress up as a dinosaur and take trick-or-treating, and that took priority over a football game.

“But I did Google it as soon as I could to see who won, because I knew I was going to do a meet-and-greet with some of those guys today, and I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight.”

He did know something about the state that played host to Sunday’s race.

“I know enough to know that this would be a 50-50 crowd here, some liking and some not, but it was interesting,” he said. “It was fun to see the fans in the garage area either high-five you or the opposite.”

But McMurray is from Joplin, Mo., and does anybody sense an omen there?

Auburn’s upset of A&M on Saturday, coupled with other upsets around the SEC, put the Tigers on course to play for a rival Alabama for the SEC West Division title in the Iron Bowl. The teams are 1-2 in the West standings, each with three conference games between now and the Iron Bowl.

The West winner plays the East winner in Atlanta on Dec. 7. Fifth-ranked and undefeated Missouri, like Auburn one of college football’s surprise teams this season, currently commands the East standings.

Stamp a big “LOL” on omen talk. Racing at Talladega comes down to the draft, and the draft spit McMurray’s car out front of the pack at the right time.

But the Auburn-themed car won to cap an Auburn-themed weekend, giving some Talladega fans consolation after local favorite Earnhardt didn’t win.

Other fans left doubly bummed.

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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