For Jamie McMurray and the 500, This Is Why They Race and Why We Watch

Joe M.Correspondent IIFebruary 16, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 14:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Thank you Jamie, and thank you to everyone at Earnhardt-Ganassi from the lowliest floor sweeper to the owners themselves.

Tell me that this year's Daytona 500 didn't have a better ending than those in recent history.

Last year not only was the race cut short due to rain, but when a costly pit strategy cost Elliot Sadler and all of his three career wins, a chance at NASCAR's biggest prize and a similar feel good story, that honor instead went to a tired, old, monotone driver in one Matt Kenseth, who is so 2003.

I've been saying for years that he (Kenseth) and Ms. Knaus, aka. Jimmie Johnson, ought to pool their career winnings together and form "Monotone Motorsports" since that is how each vanilla driver gives their boring interviews.

Or perhaps they could call the name of their racing stable "Northern Aggression" since each hails from the North and since each have won a title in the past, they could play off the aggressive (and successful) label?

Of the 43 drivers who qualified for last Sunday's Daytona 500, only 15 or 28 percent hailed from the South and a few of them, quirky as they are, Joe Nemechek and Michael Waltrip were basically just riding out there for fun, while others like the camera-polished, Carl Edwards hardly come across as Southern at all.

That is the initial reason why McMurray, a Joplin, Mo. native, winning on NASCAR's biggest stage was a nice touch on NASCAR's most hallowed ground, in the sport's biggest race.

Consider it a welcomed blast from the past.

What's next? Is David Ragan going to get his first career Cup win next week in front of 55,000 strong at California, excuse me, Auto Club Speedway? (not that it makes a difference, y'all won't be having racing there much longer).

That would only increase expectations for the rest of the season but so far we have

The South: One

Johnson/Outsiders: Zero.

Just the way it should be, even though it won't last, not with such a thin (15 drivers) lineup to choose from.

Legitimizes Earnhardt-Ganassi

Many fans are worried that NASCAR is getting too big for her britches (if they haven't already) and some fear that soon NASCAR will be nothing more than ten four-car operations.

Seeing Jamie McMurray race for a traditional two car operation reminds me of years past, like at Robert Yates Racing, for example, with Southern drivers like Alabama's Davey Allison and North Carolina's Dale Jarrett (both of whom were never team mates).  This should be seen as both a welcome throwback for fans and an inspiration to the smaller teams that it can be done and you can have success.

You don't have to have a four car operation (Richard Petty Motorsports, namely the useless Paul Menard racing on Daddy's dime, this means you) to be successful. In a perfect world, they'd downsize to Allmendinger and Kahne with Sadler as a fill in driver for when Allmendinger didn't want to race. But again, that won't matter next year after Sadler's contract expires. Hopefully they go down to three teams which is exactly what Richard Childress Racing did and you will see the results this year.

With not having to waste valuable time, effort, and resources on no-talent junk like Casey Mears who is finally in Nationwide where he belongs (if not open wheel), RCR's new three car stable has already started to reap the rewards with disgruntled team mates Clint Bowyer fourth, Kevin Harvick seventh and Jeff Burton 11th.

Like McMurray, I predict this will only be the beginning for that team. Both McMurray along with Harvick, will have a similar bounce back years, and should make the Chase, complete with multiple wins.

Why so optimistic after only one win?

Because McMurray like fellow drivers with new teams, Brad Keselowski at Penske and Martin Truex Jr with Michael Waltrip Racing are the perfect fits for their new teams. In McMurray's case, success seemed inevitable since he was already familiar with the organization and comfortable with ownership.

In fact, I wrote about this possibility last year in my initial predictions for 2010. Truex Jr., Keselowski highlight three teams to watch for in 2010.

The only reason I didn't include McMurray was because his status was still up in the air and it was uncertain whether he'd even have a ride (as we've all heard the story this week after the big win). I did mention in the article that Sadler should be fired and replaced by McMurray, proving how high I was on him.

Also, if you read my reader comments at the bottom of the article I explain to my fellow readers that I've always been a McMurray fan, like DW, and predicted a reunion with EGR and McMurray was "the way to go."

So in sum, what happened Sunday was truly an important and historic event. When someone only has three career wins and suddenly picks up 25 percent of his career win total on the biggest stage (have I stressed that enough?) its a good feeling.

And yet there are still those that definitely wanted to see the robotic Johnson continue to kill NASCAR tradition and any shot of parity (which is all we ask) with yet another ho-hum win. Instead we get a fresh driver going around to all the national talk shows and media markets telling his story.

McMurray's win gives us that hope and change. (Yes I went there).

Why else is it a big deal?

Inital reports say McMurray alone picked up approximately $1.4-1.5 million for winning the Daytona purse. The team? A cool $18.6 million.

They can afford to build better cars with better equipment, possibly recruit future drivers they otherwise may not, and it gives the fans hope for parity that we've desperately been seeking.

Had it went to tired Hendrick Motorsports, what good does that do as they are already at the top?

But here its much more interesting. You have humble owners in Chip Ganassi, who many fans probably couldn't even recognize, loyal long time minority owner Felix Sabates, and many fans object of hatred although I do not share this manner, in Teresa Earnhardt, for all the Junior lovers out there who must like losers.

For EGR this may be a new beginning. It lets the traditional teams know, there may be a new wild card, and upcoming team in the Chase before the season is over. After all, its not just McMurray, its the solid and improving Juan Pablo Montoya who he himself made the Chase last year.

Or they could go the way of Ryan Newman, 2008 winner of the 50th Daytona 500 who never won again that season...

Last year after hyping up Jeffrey Earnhardt, which I also wrote about, for their currently obselete Nationwide program and losing promising Trevor Bayne to Michael Waltrip Racing developmental team (what a shock, that's team scouting department is gold), things looked dim for the organization.

After all, this is the same team whose vision it was of the patriarch, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. to see the former DEI (Dale Earnhardt Incorporated) compete on the same playing field on a continual basis as the Roush's, Hendrick's and Gibbs'.  

Sunday proved if only for a day, this vision was finally reached.

That ought to make everyone happy from the longest tenured fan to the newest fad follower who tuned in for just this race before leaving gracefully.

After all, from Darrell Waltrip's blatant but comical on-air jubilation whenever McMurray races well, to the drivers and crew members who never speak an ill word of him, to the tears that McMurray shed in appreciation, which is key, Jamie quite simply is like Sara Lee, as in Nobody doesn't like Jamie McMurray.

He's just that kind of fella. The antithesis of a Jimmie Johnson.

And if you don't like him, you're quite simply, a jerk.

Statistics and information from Mahalo.com contributed to the information about the Daytona 500 purse winnings and distribution.


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