Jamie McMurray could be the best driver not in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship this season. Coming off his third Sprint Cup win of 2010, the Earnhardt-Ganassi driver is proving to everyone that his career is completely rejuvenated and he is ready for a run at the championship in 2011.
In October of 2009, Jamie was fighting for a full time Sprint Cup ride. The Missouri raised driver had worn out his welcome in the Roush-Fenway Racing stables, falling to the bottom of the list among names like Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards and 2007 Rookie of the Year runner-up David Ragan. NASCAR’s four car limit left McMurray without a ride.
When Martin Truex signed with Michael Waltrip racing, the door opened for Chip Ganassi to resign McMurray to the newly merged Earnhardt-Ganassi team. Guided by the wrenches of Kevin ‘ Bono’ Manion, Jamie did what he did his first run around with legendary owner Chip Ganassi; he won.
McMurray won a dramatic and emotional Daytona 500 earlier this season. He added to his win column this past August when he won another emotional Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, arguably two of NASCAR’s biggest races and certainly the most heralded tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule.
The driver of the Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats #1 Chevy added to his wins this past Saturday night at the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. On the restart on lap 314 McMurray sailed past Kyle Busch, who had led the most laps, and never looked backed, taking the checkers with Busch in second. Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson came in third followed by Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle rounding out the top five.
Other notable Chase finishers were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Kevin Harvick in eighth and Carl Edwards in 12th. RCR drivers Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton managed top twenty finishes with Bowyer in 17th and Burton in 20th.
Chasers and former Sprint Cup champs Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch all struggled through most of the race. Stewart fought problems with handling after contact with David Gilliland on lap 2 and finished 21st. Gordon had mechanical issues and never recovered, squeaking across the line in 23rd. The elder Busch was the biggest loser of the chase drivers. After contact with the wall on lap 23, Busch could not get the blue deuce right again. After going two laps down, he came across in 30th.
McMurray, the emotional winner, took the checkers and then proceeded to smoke his rear tires on the front stretch before emerging from the cloud to grab the checkered flag, a congratulatory handshake from the starter, and drive his ride around to victory lane for the third time this season. He is the only non-chase driver to win a chase race this season, and redeemed his second place finish earlier this season when he was outrun to the final flag by Kurt Busch in the Coca-Cola 600.
After hugging his dad for the first time in victory lane this season, his father missed the first two wins, Jamie McMurray felt the need to explain his emotional tears after winning at Daytona earlier this season. “I had a tough year last year,” McMurray said. “I found out about the power of prayer and what that can do for you.” As tears welled in his eyes once again, he extolled on the confidence that had given him this season.
Jamie McMurray is on a roll and is having the best season of his career. In 2010, Jamie has 3 wins, 8 tops five and 11 top 10 finishes with over six million dollars in winnings. His average starting place is 13.4 and his average finish is 16.5.