Jamie McMurray has never won a NASCAR championship.
His career, however, still has been filled with some of the most cherished moments a driver can enjoy, including a Daytona 500 victory, a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a Cup win in just his second series start.
He added yet another Saturday night, when he outdueled Carl Edwards during the final 10-lap segment at Charlotte Motor Speedway to win his first Sprint Cup All-Star Race and its $1 million top prize.
“I have been so lucky to be able to, first off, be in NASCAR as long as I have been, and to be able to experience the wins that I have been involved with and the people that I’ve been able to meet,” said McMurray, who has seven wins and never finished higher than 11th in the series standings.
“I think it’s been really successful. There’s been a lot of guys come along that don’t ever get to win a race, much less win three of the biggest races of the year.”
The way McMurray captured the surprise victory also likely will be etched in his memory for years to come.
After finishing third in Segment No. 3 and second in Segment No. 4, McMurray was the second car in line down pit road when NASCAR reset the lineup by average finish prior to a mandatory four-tire pit stop.
Carl Edwards was the first off pit road, followed by McMurray, Kevin Harvick (who had entered pit road first) and Matt Kenseth.
Almost as soon as the green flag was waved to start the final dash, McMurray pulled alongside Edwards and the two engaged in a wild side-by-side battle. McMurray finally went to Edwards’ outside with eight laps remaining to move out to a sizable lead that he would not relinquish.
“A couple of those laps when (Edwards) was inside of me, we drove off into Turn 1 and I felt like I was 300 feet deeper than I’ve ever driven into that corner in qualifying trim and I could hear his exhaust and he hadn’t let off yet,” McMurray said. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t care.’
“It was so much fun to run up the race track with him knowing that like on the end of that it’s a million dollars. I can’t explain to you guys how unbelievable that is to hold a check up for that much money.
“It’s ultimately what a race car driver wakes up every single day to be put in that position. That’s unbelievable.”
McMurray’s victory was a surprise, not because he hasn’t performed well in big moments, but more because of the struggles his team has had to start the season.
His Chip Ganassi Racing team, with first-year crew chief Keith Rodden, has been fast but inconsistent. He has two top-10 finishes but has finished 38th or worse three times.
As hehas done so many times during his career, McMurray put it all together when it mattered most.
“I should have pulled up in front of Jamie going into (Turn) 1, but I just was reluctant to give up the bottom (lane) and I pulled back down and he played it perfectly and hung on my right-rear quarter and got by me,” Edwards said.
“He raced me clean and really hard. That was really hard racing those few laps and he got it, so he deserves it. I learned a lesson, but that’s a tough one to swallow.”
Harvick made his way to second but ran out of time to seriously challenge McMurray for the win. Kenseth was third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Edwards ended up fifth.
The All-Star Race win was not only the first for McMurray but also the first for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray’s previous best finish in the race was eighth, coming last year.
“I think Jamie has shown great resilience over the years to hang in there and perform at a high level when the opportunity presents itself, and he did that here,” Ganassi said.
“I’m sure that that obviously ingratiates Jamie in the mind of a lot of people, and his future is bright, I can assure you.”