Daytona 500: Don't Count Out Jamie McMurray for Bud Shootout and 500

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIFebruary 18, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 14:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Just a few seasons ago, Jamie McMurray found himself in victory lane for the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year. Last year, McMurray suffered the Daytona 500 jinx and struggled all season long.

 

This season, I think McMurray can rebound and realistically be a darkhorse to make the Chase. I think it will all start this weekend in Daytona.

McMurray is quietly good at restrictor plate tracks, especially in Daytona. He’s made 52 career restrictor plate starts in his career, including the Bud Shootout and Duels, and has won three times. Two of those wins came in Daytona.

To go along with those three wins, McMurray has eight top-fives, 10 top-10s and 16 top-20 finishes. He’s led 201 career laps and has completed 91 percent of the laps in all 52 races.

I think McMurray would be an attractive pick for Saturday’s Bud Shootout. He’s finished in the top three the past three years with two second-place finishes and a third sandwiched in between them. A win in the Shootout can carry over to next week’s Gatorade Duel 150’s and the Daytona 500.

The EGR tandem of McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya should be strong enough to hang around, and if they stay out of trouble I wouldn’t be surprised if the No. 1 Chevrolet is on top of the leaderboard after 200 laps next Sunday.

With everyone talking about the Hendrick four car tandem and the Stewart-Hass trio, EGR can quietly surprise people again and dominate the 2012 Speedweeks.