Jamie McMurray celebrating in victory lane after winning the Bank of America 500
Well everybody kept their eyes focused on the race for the chase, Jamie McMurray stole the show, winning the Bank of America 300.
The 2010 season has been full of lots of big headlines and McMurray could be considered the biggest story of all.
Going into the 2010 season, McMurray didn't even know who he was going to drive for. Though the doors opened up as an old friend and past owner Chip Ganassi came calling, hiring McMurray to a one-year contract at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
McMurray began his Sprint Cup career at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing (then Chip Ganassi Racing) in 2002. It was announced at Richmond that he’d drive the No. 42 Dodge for the 2003 season full-time, although after Sterling Marlin was injured at Kansas, those plans were accelerated. McMurray began driving the car at Talladega in 2002.
In his second-ever start, he led 96 of the final 100 laps to win the 2000 Charlotte fall race at Charlotte, the UAW-GM Quality 500.
The following seasons produced positive final standings finishes as he finished 13th, 11th and 12th in points, despite zero wins. During this time, he accumulated 18 top fives and 46 top 10 finishes.
At the end of the 2005 season, McMurray left Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 26 Roush-Fenway Ford, hoping for bigger results. Though in return, the point finishes weren’t there: He finished 25th 17th, 16th and 22nd over the next four years with a total of 11 top fives and 42 top 10s.
He did manage to win two races (2007 Coke Zero 400 and 2009 Amp Energy 500), but for the most part, the expected success wasn’t there.
All McMurray was hoping for his return to working with Chip Ganassi was to do well enough to prove that he could be a Cup driver.
Right out of the gate at Daytona, McMurray put forth proving this to be fact as he won the biggest race—the Daytona 500. The Daytona 500 victory lane celebration that McMurray showcased is one that will go down in the history books. His tears and how he kneeled down to the Daytona logo showcased the emotions of what the biggest race meant to him.
"Unbelievable,” McMurray said in victory lane in tears following the Daytona 500. “Unbelievable. I told my wife today, she was like if you win tonight....oh I am going to cry...it is so unreal. I thought if I made it without seeing my Dad or my wife, I'd be ok. It is unbelievable really. I can't explain it. It is a dream. I mean it really it is.
"Where I was last year...and for Johnny Morris (Bass Pro Shops) and Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (Sabates), Bass Pro Shops to take a chance on me and let me come back, it means a lot to me. What a way to pay them back. Happy Valentines Day to my wife. My Dad is here, it is just very emotional.
"After we won Talladega, we went to McDonald's. I think tonight we will have a Big Mac."
McMurray then continued the dream season by winning the second biggest race of the year—the Brickyard 400, which gave Chip Ganassi the Indy sweep as Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500 earlier in the year.
“I think it’s just a situation where you got to get the guys in the right position with the right crew chief and the right team and the right owner," McMurray said following the Brickyard win. "I’ll tell you something that [team owner] Chip [Ganassi] said to me right before I got in the car. He said, ‘Let’s go out and do this thing.’ I said, ‘I’ll give you everything I got.’ He said, ‘I know, that’s why I hired you. I believe in you. You go out and do your best, that will be enough.’
“I think every driver is different, but for me that’s what drives me, is having somebody behind you. I think it’s been really good for both Chip and I to experience all of this together because we were together when things weren’t great and we kind of built this together along with the 1 team to where it is."
The third chapter of the emotional dream season was written Saturday night as McMurray won the Bank of America 300, and in victory lane, more emotions were shown.
Once in victory lane, McMurray took over the victory lane interview right after Vince Welsh asked his first question, expressing his emotions.
"Our whole team is thinking about Shane Hmiel," McMurray said in victory lane. "He's recovering from a bad accident. I really wish Steve Hmiel (Shane's father) could have been here; he's a really key part of our team (as competition boss). We had a really good car there.
"I also want to take the time to explain something: as the laps were winding down, I was thinking about Daytona and crying in victory lane. I don't think I ever really got to explain that, and why I cried, and what was going on there. As those laps were winding down I was thinking about Daytona and why I cry and the power of prayer. I had a tough year last year. I found out the power of prayer and what that can do for you.
"When you get to victory lane, and you get to experience this, it just makes you a believer. I talked to Chip earlier today, and we were discussing sponsorship and where this organization was a year ago, and how far we've come.
"To be in victory lane four times this year, and to have both cars (teammate Juan Pablo Montoya) run as well as they do, and to have the support we do from Target and all these sponsors now, it's incredible. And I just feel very blessed to be a part of it."
A lot of people would be afraid to express their emotions or afraid to express some of their inner thoughts behind stuff, such as his "power of prayer" speech. However, McMurray took charge and opened up the doors for everybody to get to know him better.
There are those who were seen on Twitter afterwards critiquing what he did, though it all didn't matter as for that moment, McMurray had the floor and expressed what he felt should be expressed.
As a whole, McMurray has had one of the best seasons that any driver could have. One of the downsides is yes, he did miss the Chase, however, it's still a great year considering how it began.
"We've had a really good season," McMurray said in the media center. "Our successes have been in some really big races, and it's really been a gratifying year. You just drive your heart out. If you've got the car, you can make those passes, and we had the better car at the end."
McMurray's story proves that anything is possible and when times get tough, there are ways to get through and make a positive at the end of the journey.
As far as the power of prayer, that my friend is something we can also hold to our hearts as we all join together, the motorsports community, to pray that Shane Hmiel has a complete, full recovery after his injuries in a USAC crash.