By Jim Pedley, Managing Editor, RacinToday.com (September 13 2015) –
As Jamie McMurray was pulling off his helmet and climbing out of his car in Victory Lane after winning at Charlotte in 2002 in just his second Sprint Cup start, NASCAR fans and competitors had to be thinking they were watching a star being born.
Young, good looking, contagious charm and with obvious race-winning talent, McMurray – which one national racing magazine called “Jamie Who?” in a headline that fall – left Charlotte Motor Speedway that night atop racing’s next-big-thing list.
And McMurray has had his moments in Chip Ganassi’s race cars. Just not championship-threatening moments. Not the kind of moments that so many expected of him 13 years ago.
Which is probably why the 39-year-old native of Joplin, Mo. reacted more with “whew” than “wow” after he drove his way into his first-ever Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
“I’m super relieved,” McMurray, who merely needed to start the race to secure that first berth, said after his 13th-place finish.
McMurray has won seven races in his career. He was rookie of the year in his first full season – 2003. In 2010, he won both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. So, the career has been decent.
Not so for the playoffs. Not only has he been shut out, he’s been heartbroken in pursuit of the Chase. And at Richmond in Septembers past in particular, McMurray has been gutted.
“I’ve been the guy on the outside, trying to fight my way in, and also been in this (battle) a couple times and been knocked out at Richmond,” he said. “It’s awesome. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
The man who gave McMurray his big break in 2002 – putting him into a Cup car at the fall Talladega race after Sterling Marlin suffered a broken neck at Kansas – knows all about the Richmond blues his driver has suffered in the past.
“I know with Jamie in the past,” Ganassi said, “when they took 10 (drivers into the Chase), I could be wrong on these numbers, seems when they took 10, we were 11th. When they took 12, we were 13th. When they took 16, we were 17th or something. So this was a little sweeter to get him punched in there pretty solid.”
Ganassi has stood by McMurray through some pretty lean times. Perhaps because of the potential he sees, most probably because of the hard work he witnesses – McMurray made big news a couple years back when it leaked out that he owned his own shock dyno.
On Saturday night, Ganassi was still standing there…
Read full article at RacinToday.com.