Will Jamie Mac Be Coming Back? McMurray's Future with Roush in Doubt

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IApril 19, 2009

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 17:  Jamie McMurray (L), driver of the #26 Crown Royal Ford talks with Bobby Labonte, driver of the #96 ASK.com Ford during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on April 17, 2009 in Avondale, AZ.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

When the checkered flag unfurled over the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge during the UAW-GM Quality 500 in Oct. 13, 2002, the winner that evening was hailed as "NASCAR's next superstar."

Jamie McMurray, who was starting in his second career NASCAR Cup race in the place of an injured Sterling Marlin, looked to be on the roads leading to instant stardom and success as one of Chip Ganassi's chauffeurs for the upcoming 2003 season.

Instead, the Joplin, Missourian has become one of the sport's over-hyped and overrated drivers over the course of his seven year career.

While McMurray, who won the rookie honors in '03, collected a win in the 400-miler at Daytona two years ago, the 32-year old racer hasn't given a strong case to awe the fans at the track in recent years.

Coming close to a berth in the Chase for the Cup in 2004 and '05, McMurray's stock value wasn't impressive but enticing to any car owner looking to have a young gun fill in the ride of a fading veteran.

Though hardly washed up, Mark Martin, then employed by Jack Roush, contemplated retirement during the '04 and '05 season.

Consistently running in the front behind the wheel of the No. 6 Ford entry, Martin was asked by Roush to drive an additional season under his Ford collective following the fall-out and ousting of Kurt Busch, who drove the No. 97 car.

What does this have to do with McMurray, you may ask?

Martin's successor was originally going to be the driver of the No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge by Chip Ganassi Racing Presented by Felix Sabates.

Instead, his replacement, also known as Jamie McMurray, filled in the void left by Busch and the No. 97 Irwin/Crown Royal team became the No. 26 team for the 2006 season.

And that is where McMurray has been for the past four seasons.

Unlike Busch's tenure with Roush, McMurray has not been quick to find the magic and success that was present with the Missouri native on that October night of 2002 at Concord, North Carolina.

Roush's team has tried about every trick in the book to help McMurray out on the track and even with his psyche as a racer.

From a change in his eating habits to visits with the sports psychiatrist, the results did not change on the track.

McMurray has become a case of the "dependable run-in" driver who seldom wins, but is a solid choice for a top 20 finish, as well as the garage area.

These are hardly expectations to be expected from the racer who appeared to strike the racing world with confidence in the late portions of 2002 in the Cup and Nationwide Series.

With the Roush-Fenway unit needing to trim their roster of drivers to comply with NASCAR's new rule of only four teams owned by a car owner, McMurray, often seen as the fourth or fifth wheel with his team, looks like the odd man out in 2010.

But is it all bad news?

For one, McMurray could still stay under the Ford umbrella, especially for the current teams in the series.

Various reports around the NASCAR media circuit suggest that "Jamie Mac" could land with the Yates Racing operation, who could use another team following the shutdown of the No. 28 Ford team.

The picture for this article may be a foreshadowing of two drivers who may become teammates for the 2010 season.

Imagine a veteran, championship-winning driver like Bobby Labonte, whose career has hit a sort of resurgence with the No. 96 Ask.com team, working with McMurray, who has been somewhat lost in the shuffle with Roush-Fenway.

While McMurray's future looks in doubt with RFR, fans of the '03 Rookie of the Year winner may not have to look too far for him.

Who knows? McMurray could very well find himself back with the Roush collective, with one of his teammates opting to leave the organization following the year.

Sound crazy to you?

It is silly season after all.

And that's the way the NASCAR world operates in these silly times.