NASCAR's McMurray trying to join elite sports car 'short list'
Jamie McMurray has a knack for coming up big in big-time events. So he has that going for him this weekend in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, as he tries to become only the third driver to win that event and the Daytona 500.
The other two: Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt.
"Couple good names," McMurray said before adding that he also had a chance to establish a record that would be his alone.
"Nobody's won those two races plus the Brickyard 400."
Two potential career milestones serve as a personal backdrop to a much-larger portrait. McMurray is part of another two-car all-star driver lineup fielded by the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates organization in the headlining Prototype class. In the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley prototype, McMurray joins five-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett, three-time winner Memo Rojas and reigning Indy Lights champion Sage Karam. The team's No. 02 has former and reigning Indianapolis 500 champions Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan teamed with former American Le Mans Series great Marino Franchitti and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Kyle Larson.
The Rolex 24, being run for the 52nd time on Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course, starts Saturday at 2:10 p.m. ET, with broadcast coverage beginning on FOX. The always-prestigious endurance event is boosted this year as the season-opening race for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the series resulting from the merger of the ALMS and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series.
Ganassi's teams have dominated the Rolex 24 in recent years, with five victories and two runner-up finishes from 2006-13.
"Chip's teams, hands-down, are the best teams in the race, with the best chance to win," said McMurray, who is in the Rolex 24 for the sixth time but the first time co-driving with Pruett and Rojas.
"It would be pretty awesome to win this race."
When it comes to major events, McMurray seemingly always has a chance. This goes back to 2002. In one of NASCAR's premier settings, the Charlotte Motor Speedway autumn race held under the lights, he pulled a stunning upset victory -- in only his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.
He has six other NASCAR Sprint Cup wins: the 2007 July race at Daytona; the 2009 October race at Talladega; a premium trio of 2010 wins – the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and once again, the Charlotte October event; and last season, another October triumph at Talladega.
Clearly there's a trend. The bigger the stage -- and the stakes -- the better McMurray performs.
"I don't really view events differently," he said. "I've just seemed to be in the right position at the right time in those races [I've won]. I've been fortunate."
Of course, you make much of your own luck in racing and if McMurray does co-drive to victory this weekend, it will be easy to understand. In addition to his own successful major-series history and that of his teammates, there's another factor to consider. McMurray has a ton of road-racing experience, due to years of racing go-karts. He won four U.S. karting titles from 1986-92 and was world champion in 1991; and he has raced numerous times in Daytona's annual year-end event.
Said Pruett: "Whatever [he drives}, Jamie is just a great talent."