NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray

2010 Ride: No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet
2010 Primary Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Tracker Boats, McDonald’s, Phillips Norelco, Suave
2010 Owners: Chip Ganassi, Teresa Earnhardt
2010 Crew Chief: Kevin Manion
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 3 wins, 9 top fives, 12 top 10s, 4 poles, 14th in points

High Point: No question, the Daytona 500. Although he led only the last two laps, McMurray was up in the running all the way through and served notice that his move to EGR was going to be a successful one. It’s possible we should add the Brickyard 400 win, which gave Chip Ganassi a sweep in the two big races at IMS; he’s the first owner to win Daytona, the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 all in the same year.

Low Point: Las Vegas. Two weeks after the 500 win, McMurray got into teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, causing an accident which sidelined them both. Montoya was understandably furious, and an already tense relationship was further strained.

Summary: McMurray told us before the season that he was excited about the opportunity to return to EGR, and he obviously made the most of it. Although he missed the Chase, 2010 can’t be considered anything like a bad year. While people like Jeff Gordon went winless, McMurray captured the two biggest races of the year, added a third in October and finished 14th in points. He also collected a total of $6,858,690 in prize money, second only to Jimmie Johnson, and won the Coors Light Pole Award for the season by grabbing the first starting position four times.

As you might expect, the Daytona 500 win left this driver extremely emotional, the pinnacle of a career that seemed on life support as late as mid-2009. “As a kid growing up,” he said, letting the tears flow at points in victory lane, “This is what you dream of.”

But if that win came through a lot of drafting help and track position when it counted, the Brickyard victory showed he was a force to be reckoned with. He drove his way to the front, then passed Kevin Harvick to take over the lead and went on to win.

“When Jamie gets a sniff of the front, he is going to the front,” Ganassi remarked after the Indianapolis race. “Jamie was solidly back on our team and things were going great. All the demons were exorcised at that point in the season.”

The Daytona 500 win, the owner added, “…was a threshold moment in the history of our team. That set the stage for the rest of the year.”

McMurray’s performance resulted in his overall season being voted the fifth top story of 2010 by the motorsports media.

2011 Outlook: What a difference a year makes. With McMurray, crew chief Kevin Manion and primary sponsors Bass Pro Shops, Tracker Boats and McDonald’s all returning, the focus will be for this team to charge to a championship. Inconsistency kept them from making the Chase last season, but eight top-20 finishes in the final 10 races seemed to stabilize that rollercoaster for 2011. Clearly, anything less than a playoff berth this season and a few victories will be disappointing after a phenomenal 2010.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: D
2007 Grade: C
2008 Grade: C
2009 Grade: C
2010 Grade: A

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