Now a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crew chief for Chip Ganassi Racing, Matt McCall doesn’t get many chances to climb behind the wheel himself.
But he continually makes the most of them when presented the opportunity.
That was the case on Sunday night when McCall emerged victorious in the Thanksgiving Classic at Southern National Motorsports Park. The 36-year-old was fastest in both practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, but rebounded from a lackluster qualifying effort to capture his first win since the Jerry Moody Memorial in May 2015.
He restarted the second half in fifth after an eight-car invert and methodically worked his way through the field over the remaining 85 laps. He made the winning pass just prior to a Lap 175 caution that allowed him to take the bottom line on a restart with 20 to go.
“The steering wheel holder make a mistake in qualifying, so I take full responsibility for that,” McCall said. “The car is pretty solid and we’ve made gains on it all year.”
This is the first race McCall has started since the 2016 Thanksgiving Classic.
“The trophy is going to Wendell Davis’ shop,” McCall said of his 2009 UARA championship winning crew chief and current car owner. “That’s where all the work went in and that’s where this belongs.”
There was some controversy after the race as Johnson believes he was actually leading at the time the caution came out on Lap 175.
“I had 40 people who tell me I got screwed,” he said, adding that he should have been in Victory Lane instead. “I knew it wasn’t right when the caution came out.”
Johnson’s brother is his spotter and immediately began speaking to track officials during said caution.
“He was talking to the official up there… we were contesting it from that point on.”
The series of events were reviewed in race control, but post-race technical inspection revealed that McCall had an illegally placed transponder. That allowed him to be shown as the leader after the decisive caution. However, track officials allowed him to keep the win, making the judgement call that the transponder was not the reason McCall won.
“Some people want me to go by the rule book, because that’s what we all fight for,” Diaz said. “But as much as some people want me to go by the rule book, I do not think the transponder position is what lost Justin Johnson the race.”
Nevertheless, McCall was declared the winner after dominating the near entirety of the weekend. In addition to Davis, McCall was also joined by his wife, son and Myrtle Beach racer Justin Milliken.
That made it extra special.
“Me and Justin are best friends and to have them here is pretty cool,” McCall said.
The complete results can be found below.
- #51 Matt McCall
- #44 Justin Johnson
- #27 Tommy Lemons Jr.
- #7 Bradley McCaskill
- #5 Lee Pulliam
- #22 Bobby McCarty
- #26 Peyton Sellers
- #4 Jonathan Findley
- #21 Mike Darne
- #9r Alex Brock
- #41 Sam Mayer
- #9 Charlie Watson
- #55 Mark Wertz
- #82 Cameron Burke
- #99 Layne Riggs
- #63 Tyler Matthews
- #2 Robert Powell
- #90 Terry Carroll
- #9 Devin Dodson
- #3 Brenden Queen
- #24g Colin Garrett
- #18y Jason York
- #1 Philip Morris
- #5 Adam Resnick
- #1 Juan Gonzalez
- #24 Mason Diaz
- #17 Stacy Puryear
- #19 Cameron Bowen
- #33 Ryan Haddock
- #46 Thad Moffitt
- #22 Grayson Cullather
- #82 Will Burns
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