By: Farrah Kaye
At the end of the 2009 season, Roush Fenway Racing had to let go of its fifth car. The causality of this was Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal/IRWIN Tools Ford Fusion, who at the time was having a hard go of it.
In the 2010 offseason, McMurray announced he would be moving to Earnhardt Ganassi racing, replacing Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. This paired McMurray together with Chip Ganassi, his previous boss before he had moved to RFR.
After winning the Daytona 500 in February 2010, McMurray’s year has taken off. With the circuit back at Daytona this weekend for the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca Cola, McMurray is this week’s All Eyes On subject.
McMurray’s racing roots began in go-karts, competing in nearly every go-kart form around the country before moving up to late models and then eventually stock cars. He still remembers his roots by competing in World Karting Association races during open weekends and during Daytona KartWeek in December.
In 1999, McMurray began his NASCAR career in the Crafstman Truck series, making four starts and an average finish of 23.4. The following year, in 15 starts, he posted one top-five and four top-tens.
2001 and 2002 saw McMurray make his move to the Busch Series, driving for Brewco Motorsports, winning two races and finishing sixth in points in 2002. Also in 2002, it was announced that McMurray would drive for Chip Ganassi the following season in the Winston Cup series in the No. 42 for seven races. Fortunately for McMurray, an unfortunate accident for Sterling Marlin allowed McMurray to shine, winning his first race in only his second start while substituting for Marlin in the No. 40 while at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
The win at LMS is considered, to this day, one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history. McMurray led 96 of the last 100 laps, racing against Bobby Labonte for the win, just one week after making his debut at Talladega. It also set a modern-era race record for a driver winning a race with the fewest starts.
In 2003, McMurray became a Winston Cup Series regular. He won the Rookie of the Year award over Greg Biffle by 37 points, although he never won a single race. He had five top-fives and was 13th in points. As well, McMurray stopped running full time in the Busch series.
2004 was a defining year for the driver of the No. 42 machine. At the Food City 500, he was penalized 25 points and missed the Chase for the Cup by a mere 15 points. Throughout the season, he had 23 top-10s, 12 coming in the last 14 races. He finished the season 11th in points. Had he made the Chase, he would have been fourth in the point standings.
Also in 2004, McMurray won a Craftsman Truck series race, becoming one of few drivers to win one race in each of the top NASCAR touring series.
In the 2005 offseason, McMurray left Ganassi for RFR, replacing Kurt Busch in the No. 97 (which was renumbered 26 after Busch went to Penske Racing). With Bob Osborne as crew chief in 2006, he had a season best finish of second at Dover after leading the most laps.
2007 brought McMurray a new crew chief, a new sponsor in Crown Royal and IRWIN Tools, his third Cup series pole and his second Cup win at the Pepsi 400, beating Kyle Busch by .005 seconds at Daytona International Speedway. He ended the year 17th in points.
In 2008, McMurray’s good runs seemed to disappear and he eventually fell out of the top-35 in points, having to qualify by his time, a “Go or Go Homer.” He eventually made his way back into the top 20 in points, earning three top-five finishes (all third place finishes). McMurray ended the year 16th in points.
Keeping up with his restrictor plate dominance, McMurray dominated the final stages of the 2009 Budweiser Shootout, but lost to Kevin Harvick on the last lap, finishing second. He finished ninth in his Gatorade Duel and was running up front in the Daytona 500 until he was involved in “the big one.”
It was during the 2009 season that RFR was told it would have to cut their fifth car, choosing to eliminate the No. 26 team. McMurray expressed interest in leaving the team while at the same time winning the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega in November, weeks before leaving RFR.
McMurray returned to his roots for the 2010 season, signing to race with Chip Ganassi at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the No. 1 car, which had been vacated by Martin Truex Jr. (who had moved to Michael Waltrip Racing).
Proving the move was the right one, he started the year off by winning the Daytona 500, leading only two laps, the least amount of laps led of a winner in Daytona history.
To date in the 2010 season, he has one win, four top-fives, five top-10s and two poles.
McMurray and his wife Christy recently announced they are expecting their first child.