McMurray looking strong for 500

McMurray looking strong for 500

Jamie McMurray, the 26-year old Joplin, Missouri native, first impressed the NASCAR crowd by winning his first race in October of 2002 in only his second start, while sitting in for an injured Sterling Marlin. Since getting a full-time ride for ...

Jamie McMurray, the 26-year old Joplin, Missouri native, first impressed the NASCAR crowd by winning his first race in October of 2002 in only his second start, while sitting in for an injured Sterling Marlin. Since getting a full-time ride for Ganassi Racing in 2003, he has become a formidable opponent.

Jamie McMurray.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
McMurray enters Speedweeks, coming off a 13th place finish in series standings, and rookie of the year honors for 2003. During Speedweeks, McMurray has developed to be a strong contender for the Daytona 500. In Saturday nights Budweiser Shootout, McMurray won the races first twenty lap segment, and was battling for a top-five result before a late race incident with Ryan Newman relegated him to 17th place finish.

McMurray's Ganassi No. 42 Dodge was also stealth in the initial qualifying session. He will start in the 6th spot in Thursday's Gatorade 125's. He is optimistic in his chances for Sunday's Daytona 500.

"After our strong run in the Bud Shootout, I'm really looking forward to the Daytona 500. I think this Texaco/Havoline Dodge has a shot to run up front and be a contender. The key at Daytona is to be patient and remember that it doesn't matter where you start at the beginning of the race. It's all about how you position yourself for a run at the end."

With the new point system, however, some racers have changed their approach to the 500. McMurray and Team 42 are working on a strategy to ensure that he is in the top-ten by the end of the 26th race at Richmond.

"I think that, obviously, if you are the leader by 300 points you don't race any differently that what you would have," said McMurray of how he plans to approach this season under the new point system. "But I think when you are the guy who is 8th to 12th, within 50 points and you might be the guy bumped out; then you are going to race those people differently then what you would of when there are four or five races to go before they make the switch.

Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"Not necessarily that you are going to wreck anybody or anything like that, just that, typically when there are 15 races to go in the season, and a guy is 10 points from you for 12th or 8th you just let him go and don't worry about it, because you have so many more races to make it up. But, if it comes down that you need those points, you are probably going to race him differently."

"Change is really hard for anyone to accept," continued McMurray. "I think once it's here for awhile you won't even think anything different about it. You just have to hope that you will be in the top ten, or are within the distance."

While Daytona remains the race that every driver dreams about winning, under the new provisions drivers have to think about playing it conservative if they want to be there at the end to compete in the Nextel chase for the championship.

"It's always important to get a good start," said McMurray. "But Daytona is just one race in a point's championship and it doesn't pay anymore points than the rest of them. So you just try and do your best."

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray , Eric Gilbert
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing