Lackluster numbers may lessen interest in McMurray
But Jamie McMurray, the person likely thought to be the odd man out all year, never stepped up.
Now, with the announcement that his sponsor Crown Royal will replace Dewalt as Matt Kenseth’s sponsor for half of 2009, it’s official he won’t be in the Roush fold.
So what’s next for McMurray? Honestly, there are not too many good options.
Roush hopes to be able to transfer McMurray over to the Yates Racing stable, where he would either drive a third car or replace Bobby Labonte as the team’s second driver. The problem there is sponsorship. Ask.com is not for sure returning to the #96, and now that Crown Royal has jumped ship there is not sponsor for McMurray to bring over to Yates. While Ford might want to keep McMurray in its fold, that won’t happen if the money is not there.
The next option is looking at open seats, but there are a couple problems there.
First of all, McMurray has hardly been a force on the track this year and overall in his career. This year he has three top-10s and no top-5s or wins. In fact, he’s only won twice in seven years … including one win in his second career Cup start back in 2002. That’s hardly a stellar resume. Roush has to be disappointed in what McMurray has done for him in the past four years, never finishing better than 16th in points.
He has shown flashes of his potential, but it’s safe to say that since his amazing debut in 2002, McMurray has been a huge disappointment when you think about what could have been.
So now that he’s out on the market, where can he go if someone was interested? The choices are few.
The #1 car is available, but that is owned by the man he previously drove for, Chip Ganassi, and I don’t know if either side would want to renew that partnership at this point. Beyond that, no one is really hiring, unless he were to displace a driver currently under contract.
These are times of contractions (rumors have both Richard Petty and Richard Childress scaling back their teams during or after this season due to sponsorship woes), not expansion. The only team likely to expand is Stewart-Haas racing, and there are other drivers (such as Brad Keselowski or possibly Kevin Harvick) who would be more desirable to Stewart for that team’s third car.
McMurray will find a home, as he’s far from the worst driver on the track each week. But you can’t ignore the numbers. 242 starts, 2 wins, 29 top-5s, 78 top-10s, and most of that was in decent equipment. Those numbers won’t cut it for an elite team in today’s NASCAR, where regular top-10s are expected if you want to keep your job.
Having established himself as a mid-pack driver, he’ll most likely end up at a mid-pack team. He’ll make a comfortable living, but don’t expect McMurray to be taking home many trophies in whatever ride he finds in 2010. And it’s too bad, because he certainly looked like a star when he busted onto the Cup scene.
The ageless Morgan Shepherd racked up another honor this week, as he was voted by fans into the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame and will be inducted Oct. 31. He beat out Michael Waltrip and Kasey Kahne for the honor.