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Untapped Potential: Jamie McMurray

Throughout sports, some teams are the guys to beat. The New York Yankees, The Kansas City Chiefs, The Los Angeles Lakers, etc. When it comes to the NASCAR Cup Series, Hendrick Motorsports has been the team to beat the last 25 years. Occasionally, and very rarely, there is an athlete who can win a Championship but never gets the job done. Ken Griffey Jr is a great example of this. He spent 22 seasons in the MLB chasing the Commissioner’s Trophy but never hoisted the trophy. Jamie McMurray is a great example of this in NASCAR. Everybody knew that he had tremendous talent, but never had luck go his way to fight for a Championship. Last time on Untapped Potential, we dove into the career of Derrick Rose. This is Untapped Potential: Jamie McMurray.

First Stint with Chip Ganassi Racing (2002-2005):

Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Jamie McMurray was thrust into the spotlight at Talladega on October 6th, 2002. This was due to the driver of the #40 for CGR, Sterling Marlin, fractured a vertebra the week prior in a wreck at Kansas. The very next week, McMurray won his first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series race in just his second start at Charlotte. He would hold off a hard-charging Bobby Labonte after leading 96 of the final 100 laps. In 2003, McMurray would win Rookie of the Year and finish 13th in the points standings. In 2004, it was a better season for McMurray compared to 2003. However, McMurray missed The Chase for The Cup by just 15 points.

2005 was the turning point for McMurray and Chip Ganassi Racing. Despite once again missing The Chase for The Cup, McMurray finished 12th in the points standings. After the season, McMurray was released from his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing on November 7th, 2005. After Chip Ganassi and his partner, Felix Sabates, learned that McMurray signed a deal to drive for Roush Fenway Racing starting in 2006. McMurray was released from his contract at CGR. Despite this, this could be a new beginning for Jamie McMurray.

Roush Fenway Racing (2006-2009):

Initially, McMurray was slated to drive the #6 car at Roush to take over for Mark Martin. Originally, Martin announced that he was going to retire after the 2005 season but decided to return for the 2006 season. Instead, McMurray took over the #26 car, which was switched from the #97 by the departing Kurt Busch. Jack Roush had high expectations for McMurray. Unfortunately, the 2006 season was the worst in his Cup Series career. At Dover in early June, McMurray had the best car of the day and was in prime position to win. With three laps to go, McMurray was passed for the lead and the eventual win by his Roush teammate, Matt Kenseth. Despite a disappointing second-place finish, McMurray held his head high with a smile on his face. 2006 was a disappointing season for McMurray as he finished 25th in the points.

2007 was a better year for McMurray compared to 2006. At Daytona in July, McMurray beat Kyle Busch back to the line in a drag race to get his second Cup Series victory. He would go on to finish 17th in the point standings. 2008 started sour for McMurray with a string of poor finishes that found him 36th in the points early in the standings. Throughout the remainder of the season, McMurray steadily climbed back into the top 20 in the points. McMurray would finish 16th in the points in 2008. 2009 ended up being the final season for McMurray at Roush. Early in the season, he was in a prime position to win the Daytona 500 but that slipped through his fingers. Later that season, McMurray would win at Talladega, his final win for Roush. He finished 22nd in the points in 2009.

A Career Year (2010):

After 2009, Jamie McMurray didn’t know if he was going to be racing in 2010. Roush released McMurray at the end of 2009 due to NASCAR limiting teams to four full-time cars instead of five. Before the start of the 2010 season, an old friend reached out to McMurray offering him a ride for 2010. That was Chip Ganassi.  McMurray had his home for 2010 and he was going to make the most out of this opportunity. He started the 2010 season off right when, in his first start with CGR since 2005, winning the sport’s biggest race. The Daytona 500. Daytona is the world’s center of racing; it is the Super Bowl for NASCAR. Eight races later, McMurray would be in a prime position to win at Talladega, but Kevin Harvick beat him back to the line by 0.011 seconds to the line.

In July, McMurray won his second race of the season at the Brickyard 400. Currently, McMurray is one of three drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year. No driver has done it since McMurray. Currently, Chip Ganassi Racing is the only team to win the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, and the Brickyard 400 in the same year. McMurray helped team owner, Chip Ganassi, achieve motorsports immortality. Ultimately, McMurray failed to make The Chase. He would finish the 2010 season 14th in points with 3 wins, 9 Top-5 finishes, and 12 Top-10 finishes. This was undoubtedly McMurray’s best season to date. It was only a matter of time to see if he could have another season like 2010.

The Return to Chip Ganassi Racing (2011-2014):

Entering 2011, Chip Ganassi had high expectations for McMurray. On January 19th, 2011, McMurray signed a multi-year contract extension with CGR. The 2011 season started on a sour note for McMurray with four consecutive finishes outside the Top 20 after Daytona. In July, at Indianapolis, McMurray’s best chance of winning slipped through his fingers. With nine laps to go, McMurray passed Paul Menard for the lead. But Menard passed McMurray back for the lead, and the eventual win with four laps to go. It was a tough season for McMurray and finishing 27th in the points did not help at all. 2012 was a rough season for McMurray as well. With a crash in the Daytona 500, that was the tone of his season. He would go on to finish 21st in the points standings.

2013 was an odd year for McMurray and NASCAR in general. With a new car for the Cup Series, it was a fresh start for everybody. Throughout the year, McMurray had very solid runs, more than he had throughout his entire career. But he failed to qualify for The Chase once again. In October of that year, McMurray won at Talladega for his first win in three years. 2014 was looking to be a better season for CGR as they brought up young rookie, Kyle Larson. In May of that season, McMurray won the All-Star Race at his best track, Charlotte. With The Chase expanding to 16 drivers starting this season, McMurray eyed 2014 as his best opportunity to make The Chase. Unfortunately, this was not the case for McMurray.

End of the Road (2015-2018):

It seems that nowadays, most athletes lose their touch. But in the curious case of Jamie McMurray, it seemed that in the final years of his career, he became more consistent with his finishing results. 2015 started solidly for McMurray. Throughout 2015, McMurray continued to post consistent results and qualified for The Chase for the first time in his career. Despite being eliminated in the Round of 16, McMurray finished 13th in the points standings. The time was ticking for McMurray to put on a show, and 2016 wasn’t his season. He would qualify for The Chase but once again, was eliminated in the Round of 16. The beginning of 2017 was a solid run for McMurray, he was fifth in the points standings after Dover. He managed to clinch a spot in The Playoffs, formally known as The Chase.

Ultimately, McMurray would be eliminated from the 2017 Playoffs in The Round of 12. 2018 would be McMurray’s worst season since 2013 due to poor finishes and poor luck. His highlight of 2018 was unfortunately barrel rolling down the back straightaway at Talladega in a practice crash. McMurray was unharmed from this crash. Whether it was the new aero package in 2018 or the Camaro being used for Chevy in 2018, McMurray couldn’t catch a break. Unfortunately, McMurray would miss The Playoffs in 2018. At the end of the season, it was announced that Kurt Busch would replace McMurray in the #1 Car starting in 2019. 2018 would be McMurray’s last full-time season in the Cup Series. McMurray would eventually announce his retirement from the Cup Series in 2018.

What is McMurray Doing Now?

After he retired from full-time Cup Series Racing in 2018, McMurray has run the Daytona 500 in years past for CGR. But outside of the Daytona 500, McMurray has not run in any other races. Currently, McMurray is an analyst for NASCAR on FOX. Specifically, McMurray is an analyst for NASCAR RaceHub. Jamie McMurray had an interesting career in the NASCAR Cup Series. For years, he was always a mid-pack runner, but people knew that if he got into the right equipment, he could contend for Championships. McMurray finished his NASCAR Career with Seven Cup Series wins, Eight Xfinity Series wins, and One Truck Series Win.

Next Week on Untapped Potential: Baseball! We hope that you enjoyed this piece and that you come back next Tuesday at 3PMEST for the next edition of Untapped Potential!

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