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NASCAR Sprint Cup: Jamie McMurray is on a roll

By Jim Utter
jutter@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/26/19/18/1t7J9L.Em.138.jpeg|210
    JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO - MCT
    Since winning the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jamie McMurray has finished no worse than 13th in his past five points races, including a pole and season’s best fourth-place finish last Sunday at Sonoma, Calif.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/26/19/18/7vZE1.Em.138.jpeg|241
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Jamie McMurray (1) watches his team make adjustments to the car during a May 22 practice oat Charlotte Motor Speedway.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/26/19/18/1wvTGp.Em.138.jpeg|209
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Jamie McMurray does a burnout following his victory in the May 17 Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/26/19/18/61VKh.Em.138.jpeg|188
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Jamie McMurray crosses the finish line to win the May 17 Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/26/19/18/urr6F.Em.138.jpeg|473
    Bob Brodbeck - AP
    Driver Jamie McMurray is seen after a practice session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Quicken Loans 400 auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich..

Jamie McMurray enjoys coming to the race track these days.

Like most drivers, his career has had its share of highs and lows, but he still has managed to hoist trophies from some of the Sprint Cup Series’ most prestigious races.

What he hasn’t been able to do so far is qualify for the Chase and compete for a series championship.

That may be changing this season.

Both Chip Ganassi Racing teams – McMurray and rookie Kyle Larson – have shown speed this season, and recently McMurray has begun putting together strong finishes on a regular basis.

Since winning the Sprint All-Star Race on May 17 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, McMurray, 38, has finished no worse than 13th in his past five points races, including a pole and season’s best fourth-place finish last Sunday at Sonoma, Calif.

McMurray has another good opportunity in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky. He finished second in the race a year ago to winner Matt Kenseth.

“I really feel like each race between now and Richmond, we’ll have the chance to win if we make all the right decisions,” McMurray said.

McMurray talked recently about his 2014 season, the development of his teammate and the upcoming retrictor-plate race at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Q: Do you feel the Ganassi organization has turned the corner this season?

I won the All-Star race, and I look at the speed that we have had. Even (at Michigan), I thought we had the car to beat last week and I messed up on the last restart and spun the tires a little bit. Just every week it’s been good. Even tracks I’ve struggled at in the past or historically bad tracks for me, (crew chief) Keith (Rodden) has been able to give me a car capable of running up front and maybe winning. I can’t say enough. It is so much fun every week to come to the race track right now and know that you are going to qualify well. And if things aren’t going well, you know your team is capable of turning it around and getting a good finish out of it. It’s a really good time right now.

Q: Can you describe the growth you’ve seen in your teammate this season?

Kyle has done a great job all year long. He’s a great kid. I really enjoy having him as a teammate. Kyle’s best quality is that he is able to put it all together at the end of the race. Even if things don’t go well at the end, he seems to be able to find a way to finish well. That’s why he is where is in the points (10th) because they’ve been able to pull all that together. So yeah … great teammate and great kid.

Q: Having won four restrictor-plate races in your career, what are you and your team doing to prepare for the upcoming race at Daytona?

There’s a lot of effort that’s put into the Daytona 500 because we do the testing and then we’re in Daytona for two weeks preparing for that race. But I would say honestly, from my side, I don’t really think about speedway races until we get there that week. There’s really not a lot you can do to the car once you get to the track, so the team prepares the car. I think our speedway car is already done, sitting there, maybe waiting on an engine or getting an engine put in it. To me, when I look at Daytona and the races, it kind of is what it is and you know what to expect.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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