A NASCAR veteran losing their ride is a story. But according to some NASCAR journalists, it’s not.
With all of the attention on the NASCAR playoffs, plus the free agency stories of Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez, everyone has forgotten about a man who has won multiple major races in the sport’s premier division.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray is likely out of a ride at season’s end, unless something changes over the next few weeks. No one is talking about it, and that’s a problem, since he is one of the few faces left from the 2003 starting grid.
McMurray’s career has seen moments of genius, such as the 2010 season when he won three major contests. He’s been fixture in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since he filled in for an injured Sterling Marlin in 2002, and he’s a recognizable name.
So why isn’t anyone talking about his future in NASCAR? Could it be that he’s one of the sport’s oldest drivers? That he doesn’t have what it takes to win? Or that he’s been riding one great season for eight years?
Team owner Chip Ganassi told the Associated Press that McMurray can run the 2019 Daytona 500 for the organization. That’s it.
“I love Jamie McMurray and I want him on my team,” Ganassi said. “In a Dario role, though.”
That comment refers to Dario Franchitti, a four-time IndyCar Series champion who now works behind-the-scenes with CGR. The role would give McMurray a chance to stay with CGR but serve as an adviser and driver coach, similar to Josh Wise, which could be key as the team aims to win titles with Kyle Larson.
When the news came out that McMurray is out at CGR, the rumor mill began, starting with the possibility of Kurt Busch taking over the No. 1 ride. But that news is not confirmed, and the 2004 Cup champion could still return to Stewart-Haas Racing.
Another possibility — if Busch stays at SHR — is that Daniel Suarez could bring over some funding with ARRIS to join CGR. Other than that, the options for CGR are few and far between.
Who knows, maybe McMurray can convince Ganassi to give him one more shot.
He’s been with the team since 2010, when it was Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, a split between CGR and Dale Earnhardt Inc. in an attempt to save two squads that were struggling to survive at the time.
McMurray started his tenure with the No. 1 team with a Daytona 500 win. Later that year, he won the Brickyard 400 and the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But since then, he’s only won once, at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013.
Each year, the question arises as to whether or not McMurray can repeat his 2010 stats. Each year, he has failed to do so.
With CGR, he made himself a top 15 driver, finishing 13th in the playoff standings in both 2015 and 2016, plus 12th last year. In doing so, he solidified his seat for this year, even when rumors said he was out.
This year’s performance is significantly down for McMurray, earning two top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 19.3. That’s down from 14.6 a year ago, putting him outside of the top 20 in points for the first time since 2012.
Ganassi feels that McMurray, 42, is done being competitive. He might not be wrong.
McMurray, for his part, seems like he’s accepted his fate. You probably won’t see him pull a Kasey Kahne and compete for a small team for a year. If he’s indeed retiring, he’ll go out with Ganassi, who he can say gave him not one, but two shots to race in NASCAR’s premier division.
McMurray isn’t a Hall of Famer, but he is a respectable driver. He’s earned seven triumphs and ran 16 full seasons at the Cup level.
Solid. He’s worth mentioning. He’s a household name who’s been in the sport for a while. Though his on-track accomplishments aren’t outstanding, we’re talking about a Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner. It’s the same thing that’s likely kept him in the same ride for so long.
While McMurray might be getting offers to drive for other teams, no one is discussing it. It doesn’t matter to people, and part of it might be because he’s been out of contention this entire year.
He deserves to go out with respect, though. He’s been racing for a while and understands the sport. He might not have blossomed into the driver he was once predicted to be, but people should still care about this guy’s pending retirement.
Keep that in mind when the series reaches Homestead-Miami Speedway in a few weeks. There still may not be any news about his 2019, but it’s still worth bringing up.