With NASCAR‘s season now half over, the race-to-the-playoffs have begun. The next few weeks separate true championship contenders from pretenders. Consistency is no longer necessary; perfection is. This is especially true for Jamie McMurray of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Many have discounted McMurray this season and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in general, but the team may have a late push of legendary proportion in store.
Champions make their names not only in the chase, but the races leading up to it. Tony Stewart’s 2005 championship was legendary in that he gained the points lead with a home victory at the Brickyard 400. He then advanced his lead the next weekend at Watkins Glen.
These crucial victories were based on the momentum Stewart gained by winning at Sonoma, Daytona and Loudon. Loudon, Indianapolis, Pocono Raceway and Watkins Glen are the next four tracks on the NASCAR schedule. Believe it or not, Jamie McMurray may be the hottest driver in the garage right now.
Like Stewart in 2005, McMurray’s momentum began in Sonoma. There, McMurray won the pole after being dispatched to 21st in points, instilling a new confidence into the team after a bad finish the previous week at Michigan International Speedway.
The NASCAR points picture is shifting every week, but is getting consistently closer. McMurray the past two weeks has had top-10 finishes, gaining four spots in the standings. After Sonoma, he found himself over fifty points behind 10th place, which at the time was Martin Truex Jr.
McMurray has cut that in half, now sitting 24 points behind the aforementioned Tony Stewart. A wild card is highly improbable considering the drivers sitting ahead of McMurray and his only top-five finish of the season coming two weeks ago at Kentucky. But, consistency may be the thing, which gets McMurray in the chase as one of the best comebacks in NASCAR history.
The ironic thing of course is that despite being a veteran driver, McMurray has never had a truly complete year. Despite showing flashes of greatness, he has never finished higher than 11th in the standings.
Looking forward, Jamie Mac will have to continue his momentum and do things he has never done in his veteran career. At Loudon, for example, his average finish is a dismal 22.8. But, he only has three DNF’s and averages a top-10 finish every five races. Considering he hasn’t had one in the last four, I would say he’s due.
At the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, McMurray and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing have always had speed. A winner in 2010, McMurray could get himself within the top 15 easily within the next two races. From there on, anything is possible. Jamie McMurray is a driver who knows a thing or two about defying the odds. He rose from nowhere early in his career to win for Ganassi Racing. And as far as this season goes, he certainly can once again come out of nowhere to shock the NASCAR world.
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