NASCAR Chicagoland Notebook: Jamie McMurray Learned From Watching 2014 Chase

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Jamie McMurray poses with the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 trophies during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway in February (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Jamie McMurray poses with the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 trophies during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway in February (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

JOLIET, Ill.—Jamie McMurray didn’t make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last year, but he learned quite a bit from it.

In fact, McMurray qualified for the Chase this season for the first time since the playoff format’s inception in 2004, but in racing against—and observing–the title contenders last year, he had the chance to develop his own strategy.

Of particular note to the driver of the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was the performance of Ryan Newman, who advanced to the Championship 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway without winning a race and came within a half-second of beating Kevin Harvick for the championship.

“You want to see how far you can go, and I think that the 31 car (Newman) was somewhat eye-opening last year,” said McMurray, who, like Newman, hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race since 2013. “I don’t know if anyone would have selected them to make it to the final round at Homestead, and they did. And they put together quite a race when they got to Homestead.

“For us, we’ve been top 10 in points all year, so I feel that, if we can go out and do what we’ve been doing, that’s a realistic goal. You hope that you’re able to get your cars better and have better races when it counts the most. So I’m looking forward to see how the first three or four races play out…

“Winning is important, but it’s not the only way to get there.”

McMurray believes the key to advancing through the opening Challenger Round of the Chase is avoiding catastrophe at Chicagoland, New Hampshire and Dover. The 16 Challengers will get their first postseason test Sunday in the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“When I look at the strategy of how you head into this, the first round is about… you’d love to be able to win one of those races, but it’s also about not having a bad one,” he said. “And I think that, if you just have three solid races in that first round, you’ll make it through to the next round and then regroup, see who you’re racing, what tracks (are on the schedule) and go from there.”


Nothing in the NASCAR rule book has drawn more attention lately than the governance of restarts, but Clint Bowyer has a simple cure for those inclined to hit the gas before they get to the designated restart zone.

Bowyer believes all NASCAR has to do is make one call for jumping a restart, penalize the offending driver, and the problem will be solved.

“NASCAR should do this, call them out,” Bowyer said on Thursday at Chase Media Day at The Murphy in downtown Chicago. “That’s all you’ve got to do. When I was a weekly racer and racing all over the country… you didn’t race under the same promoter every week. So one guy would be a hard ass and then you knew when you went to that race track that that guy – whether it was the flagger or the ring leader, the owner, whoever that guy was – he was going to call you on it and it was his decision.

“If you were wrong and didn’t like it, take your ass home. That was the mentality of C. Ray Hall in Wichita, for instance, at 81 Speedway. That was his mentality. Then you went to another race track, and you knew that that guy wouldn’t call you on it and it was pretty much a gray area and you could get away with a little bit more than you could with ol’ C. Ray down the road in Wichita.

“That being said, all you’ve got to do is call somebody on it once—that will fix the problem. That’s all you have to do. Call them—whether it’s me or anybody else, and if you do that once, I won’t do it again.”


Danica Patrick filled in another piece of her sponsorship puzzle on Friday with the announcement that Aspen Dental would extend and expand its support for Patrick’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2016.

Aspen Dental will be on the hood of Patrick’s Chevrolet for four races next year, doubling its 2015 presence.

Last month, Patrick introduced Nature’s Bakery as the primary of her car for 28 races next year. Long-time sponsor GoDaddy had announced earlier it would not be returning to her car in 2016.

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