Much will be said over the following few weeks about how Jamie McMurray has become NASCAR’s new superstar. From having a mediocre few seasons with Roush-Fenway Racing, where he only won twice, to not having a job this time last season.
Now he’s won two of NASCAR’s biggest races in the same season, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 with Chip Ganassi. It would appear that Ganassi has been the saving grace for McMurray as his career has suddenly taken off and his job security should no longer be in question.
What many are questioning, or maybe not after Sunday, is how the No. 1 team that was once driven by Martin Truex Jr. has suddenly become a front running team and big winners in NASCAR. It’s a complete turnaround to where the team and new driver once were.
To recap, a year ago it was announced that Truex would be leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing for Michael-Waltrip Racing. In came McMurray who many felt had a lot of pressure on his shoulders to show that he could be a weekly contender in the sport. The Daytona 500 came as did the win and everyone was congratulating McMurray on his comeback.
That included Truex who was happy to see his former team accomplish such a great feat.
Now that they’ve won another big race, one can only wonder if he again feels the same way. His former team has now not only won more races than he has, but has won the biggest races there are.
Truex began his Sprint Cup career in the No. 1 car back in 2006, after Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also drove for then Dale Earnhardt Inc, spotted him. Earnhardt Jr. gave him a ride in the Nationwide Series where he won back-to-back titles before he was moved up to the cup. The team finished 19th in points their rookie year.
A year later, 2007, Truex and the team won their first career race at Dover, and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Winning a race, check; making the Chase, check; and finishing 11th in points, check. Things were looking up.
After Earnhardt Jr. left following 2007, things began to get weird around the organization. Truex and his team never won a race in 2008, finished 15th in points and prepared for the merger with Ganassi in 2009.
When Montoya came over and started show the world that he could be a true NASCAR driver, by making the Chase and contending for numerous wins, the No. 1 team still lagged behind. Montoya finished eighth in points and Truex Jr. was 23rd.
He wasn’t happy with the performance of his Bass Pro Shops team and felt he was second fiddle to new teammate Juan Pablo Montoya.
Truex made the decision to head to MWR, a company that was starting to come show their strength. Fast cars and a great partnership with NAPA Auto Parts drew in the New Jersey native.
He may be happier and fit in better with MWR, as McMurray feels happier and fits in better at EGR and he did at Roush, but the results aren’t what they could be. McMurray is reaping the rewards and shooting to the top of the sport, as Truex looks on.
When going to the racetrack each weekend, race fans never thought of the No. 1 team as those to contend with. In 2010, however, they have been up front and right in the thick of things on more than one occasion.
In 20 starts there are two wins, three poles, six top fives, and seven top 10s. It might be a long shot for the team to make the 2010 Chase, they’re 151 points out of 12th with six races remaining, but at this point that might be icing on the cake.
Races they haven’t won, they’ve come close. He was second at Talladega, and second in another big race, the Southern 500 at Darlington. And don’t forget how close he came to winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, the same day that Ganassi won the Indy 500.
Things are clicking and this team has all the right pieces in place to continually surprise everyone in the NASCAR world. When the big money is on the line, McMurray has become the go-to guy.
Is it the driver or is it the equipment? What has made McMurray excel with the No. 1 team and leave many forgetting about how used to drive that car?
Truex certainly isn’t a slouch and had his share of success while aboard, but 2010 has changed the lives of McMurray and Bass Pro Shops team led by Kevin “Bono” Manion.
Sometimes it’s just amazing how things work out, but for the No. 1 team and McMurray, what a roller coaster it has been. And who wouldn’t love to be on a roller coaster that leads you to victory lane at the Daytona 500 and now the Brickyard 400?
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