Why Jamie McMurray Is My Dark Horse Title Contender For 2010

Sam MillerContributor INovember 21, 2009

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #26 IRWIN Ford, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 13, 2009 in Avondale, AZ.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Okay, I'm not exactly saying that Jimmie Johnson needs to watch out for the No. 1 car next year, but I do believe that Jamie DOES have a legitimate chance not only to win a race or two, but also quite possibly make the chase, something he has yet to do.

A lot of people have said that they believe that Jamie is washed up, that he belongs only in the Nationwide Series, but that is not true.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) Jamie is no longer the fifth racer on a five-man team. Say what you will about how strong Roush may be, but being the 4/5th racer on a team does little to boost a drivers performance.

At Ganassi in his early years, Jamie was one of their top drivers, and was given priority in equipment. When he went to Roush next year, though, he immediately got what was essentially the leftovers. Ask most drivers, and they'll tell you being a fourth or fifth driver is not a good situation. Being second at EGR WILL give him a boost, if not in confidence, but definitely from a technical standpoint. I hate to say it, but Chevy>Ford.

2) Fresh start. Jamie goes back to the organization where he had the most success as a driver, and should benefit from being under the guidance of the EGR family once again.

3) The engines and support from Childress and Ganassi has finally come around, and the results have shown. Next year, I only expect their program to continue to improve.

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4) Jamie is the "veteran" on a race team. Funny to think of a 33-year-old as a veteran in NASCAR, but JPM has an opportunity to learn from many of the things Jamie has gone through, and Jamie not only can learn from a chase driver what it takes, but he also gains a teammate that I have considered to be a rival.

JPM and J-Mac dont always get along, and it usually ended with J-Mac in the wall. But as teammates, that will not be the case.

5) The final talking point, its still a contract year. I will admit, this year there was a weak free-agent class, but the next class will not be. If Jamie hopes to snag a ride for next year, this year is a put up or shut year.