Daytona winner McMurray surprises at the Brickyard
INDIANAPOLIS — Did you figure Jamie McMurray would make NASCAR history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
McMurray was out of a job by the end of last summer, cut by Roush Fenway Racing. Last November he rejoined Chip Ganassi, the owner he left for Roush Fenway. He returned older, wiser, better.
On Sunday, he proved it by winning the Brickyard 400 — beating runner-up and series points leader Kevin Harvick by 1.391 seconds — to become the third driver to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year. The others were Dale Jarrett in 1996 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006.
“Leaving Chip Ganassi was good for me,” he said. “I had to learn the hard way. It made me appreciate everything. I matured so much.”
McMur ray’s maturity helped Ganassi become the first owner to win those two
Continued from C1 races, plus the Indianapolis 500 (Dario Franchitti took first in May) in the same year.
“I didn’t dare dream to get all three of these in one year,’’ Ganassi said.
“Hard work, passion and sacrifice,” Ganassi said when asked about the secret to having success in NASCAR and IndyCar. “It’s the only way I’ve figured out how to do it. You stay on plan.”
The plan took a detour when McMurray left Ganassi for a more lucrative deal, but he won only twice in four years and lost his ride. Ganassi, meanwhile, struggled to land sponsorship and to fund a second car.
Then last fall, McMurray needed a ride, and Ganassi needed a driver with financial backing. They were a perfect fit. “We were together when it wasn’t great,’’ McMurray said. “And now we’ve built this to where it is.”
Added Ganassi: “We had grown as a team. He had grown as a driver.”
“The guy that’s got to feel like an idiot tonight has to be Jack Roush,” Ganassi co-owner Felix Sabates said. “He’s the one that let him go.”
McMurray hadn’t done much since winning February’s Daytona 500. He had only six top-10 finishes all season, although three of those were seconds. He led just 16 laps Sunday, the second-fewest ever by a winner. Jarrett led 11 laps while winning in 1996.
McMurray moved up two spots to 16th in the standings, four spots from qualifying for the Chase for the Cup.
“We had a third-or fourthplace car,” McMurray said. “But we had a smart race. We didn’t make any mistakes.”
Ganassi’s triple crown impressed the competition.
“To win all those (major races) in one year is remarkable,” Harvick said. “It probably will never happen again.”
Added Ganassi: “I hope he’s right. I’m the luckiest guy on the planet.”
Not so lucky was Ganassi driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He led 86 laps, more than twice as many as anyone else, but lost his shot at becoming the first man to win the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 when he crashed with 15 laps left.
“When Juan was leading and I was in second, I am a big believer in fate, and I thought this was just the way it is meant to be,” McMurray said. “I won the 500, Dario (Franchitti) won the Indy 500 and Juan is gonna win this race. I really thought it was his day.”
But Montoya, on his crew chief’s advice, took two tires and McMurray took four on a pit stop with 18 laps to go. Montoya fell behind drivers with fresher tires and crashed into Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car while pushing it to get back to the front. An angry Montoya left the track without commenting.
“I know he’s mad,” Ganassi said. “But it’s racing. This is what he does for a living.”
Greg Biffle was third in a Ford for Roush-Fenway and was followed by Clint Bowyer and two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart.
Jamie McMurray also won the Daytona 500 in February.
Jamie McMurray celebrates after winning the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.