In the end, they provided the kind of drama that might make kids in Chile dream of growing up to be NASCAR drivers. After 400 miles, McMurray beat Busch to the finish line by 0.005 of a second to win Saturday's Pepsi 400.
"I can't believe I'm in Victory Lane at Daytona," McMurray said.
He'd gone 166 races without a win. Getting back to the top was a testament to perseverance and survival. On Saturday, he survived a wreck-filled race at Daytona International Speedway and found himself wheel-to-wheel with Busch in the final lap.
Busch is a 22-year-old hotshot who won Saturday morning's 250-mile Busch Series race. After 650 miles of hard driving, he had plenty of energy left at 11 p.m. as he tried to hold off McMurray and a posse of cars in his rearview mirror.
"It was so close," Busch said. "I thought I had enough momentum."
He eased ahead coming off the final turn, but McMurray found enough horsepower to nose into the lead.
"He beat us fair and square," Busch said. "I'm not crying."
There was some of that earlier Saturday as cars collided and drivers wondered what went wrong. The first clue it would be a night of carnage came after 15 laps, when Tony Stewart rear-ended leader Denny Hamlin.
Stewart was going for his third straight Pepsi 400 win. Dale Earnhardt Jr. got tangled up in the spinning cars and had to go to the garage for repairs. Earnhardt and Stewart eventually returned, but if the Pepsi 400 were the presidential race, they would have been Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.
The Bush brothers would have been played by the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle. Kurt was right behind Kyle on the final lap and attempted to give him an aerodynamic push to the finish line.
"I had my foot through the floorboard," he said.
It was the kind of finish that first-time fans had only heard about. One of them was Juan Ovalle, who came all the way from Santiago, Chile. Another was Rudy Giuliani, who came all the way from New York, N.Y.
The Republican presidential candidate said his wife had been to a race at "Pocono Downs." That's a 5/8th-mile harness-racing track in Pennsylvania. Whatever NASCAR votes he lost with that tongue slip, Giuliani probably made up for with his enthusiasm.
"You've got to come to New York and do one of these," he said at the pre-race drivers meeting. "Maybe we do it through Central Park."
Daytona is no stranger to politicians trolling for votes. Ronald Reagan did radio play-by-play during the 1984 Firecracker 400 and won the election five months later. The Pepsi 400 always provides a great slice of Americana.
Saturday's spectrum featured 43 cars, two blimps, four fighter jets flying over, 150,000 fans, countless empty beer cans and no rain. The sky always seems to threaten to fall in during the July race, but the gray clouds skirted the racetrack Saturday.
That didn't seem to help the racing, however. The hot asphalt made for some slick conditions, which contributed to the early carnage.
That's one reason Ovalle is the biggest NASCAR fan in Chile, where Formula One is king. He is a fruit exporter who was taken to Daytona on Saturday by a client.
"This is much more exciting," Ovalle said. "Formula One is boring. You know in advance who's going to win."
That definitely wasn't the case Saturday night. It was so close even the winner didn't know he'd won at first.
"Who won?" McMurray radioed back to his crew.
"I just started beating my fist against the wheel," McMurray said. "I was almost in pain I was so excited."
David Whitley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.