NASCAR Cup series champion for 2017 ... Jamie McMurray? What are the odds?

Jamie McMurray was the last driver to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make a championship run.
Jamie McMurray was the last driver to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make a championship run. Getty Images

Gamblers, beware, at least if you planned to put money on NASCAR Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray.

A reporter told the longtime NASCAR driver on Wednesday that according to Las Vegas, he’s the only playoff driver without any championship odds. None. And it’s just him, out of the 16 left.

McMurray turned to respond, then smiled.

“I don’t care,” McMurray said. “I would like to say that I do, but I don’t care. It doesn’t really matter what the odds are.”

Now, what McMurray was told isn’t entirely true. He has odds listed online. They’re just not good ones.

At 66 to 1, McMurray’s odds to win the championship at Homestead in November are the fourth-worst of the remaining drivers. Only Ryan Newman (80 to 1), Austin Dillon (80 to 1) and Kasey Kahne (100 to 1) are being given less of a chance than McMurray. But considering he was the last driver to qualify for the playoffs, maybe that isn’t so bad.

McMurray hasn’t won a race this season, and he only has two top-five finishes. But that said, he’s finished in the top 10 in half of this year’s races. That suggests a consistency that may help him come the playoffs, which kick off this weekend in Chicago.

“For our sport, you race the first 26 races to this point and then it essentially gets reset,” McMurray said. “Even though there are some stage points that have been accumulated by some people, when you look from sixth back to where I am now listed at 16th ... it’s not many.”

It’s true. The difference is minimal. There are obvious favorites on the leaderboard in Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson, who have a points gap on the rest by virtue of their multiple race victories and stage wins.

But aside from the few frontrunners, there’s not a huge difference. Kevin Harvick has 2,015 points in sixth place, and McMurray is 12 points behind him but at the back of the standings. It’s that small differential that could give McMurray, even though he’s last at the moment, the chance to make a championship run.

Now, if he were to do that, it would be McMurray’s best season ever. He finished 11th in 2004 and has come 13th a number of times since then, but he’s never lasted long enough in the playoffs to be a true title contender.

Back to the odds. So even if McMurray doesn’t care about them, what does he make of his own chances? He wouldn’t say exactly, but his smile and answer gave it away all the same.

“It’s a race-by-race format,” he said. “It’s basically all reset.”

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks