By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
How can a driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs fly under the radar in an elimination race? Jamie McMurray found out at Dover International Speedway by avoiding trouble and cruising to a top-10 finish.
McMurray had a quiet weekend at the ‘Monster Mile’ as focus was on those below the cutoff line to advance from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12. He finished ninth after having to climb up through the field the entire race. McMurray avoided trouble in his No. 1 GearWrench Chevrolet SS throughout the entirety of the event.
Passing was a bit easier compared to recent weeks as McMurray and others could move around on the high-banked concrete 1-mile oval. A new tire compound allowed him to climb from his 26th starting position to 18th at the end of Stage 1 and ninth by the end of Stage 2. He remained in ninth throughout the remainder of the Apache Warrior 400.
McMurray admitted that he focused on consistency at ‘The Monster Mile,’
“Well, I’m pleased. I feel like and I said it on media day that we have run about eighth all year long, so if we just did what we had done all year long that we would be fine. Had a great car today. Got behind in qualifying, but recovered well and we were a little safe on our strategy, but man, had a great car again.”
McMurray also admitted that the next round is a bit of a wildcard,
“Charlotte has been great and you just never know at Talladega anybody has a chance to win there. That has been a great track for me, so I look forward to it.”
After the reseeding for the Round of 12, McMurray slides down to 12th in the Playoff standings. He now sits 56-points behind point leader Martin Truex, Jr.
Looking ahead to next weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, McMurray’s odds are decent. Among active drivers at Charlotte, he has the 17th-best average finish. In the five most recent races at the 1.5-mile track, McMurray is 15th in average finishes with a driver rating of 77.1.
In McMurray’s career at Charlotte, he has two victories, seven top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes. His most recent victory at Charlotte came in the 2010 Playoff race. In the five most recent races, McMurray has just one top-10 finish.
Now McMurray, crew chief Matt McCall, and the entire No. 1 team will look to rekindle their past success at Charlotte as they hope to lock themselves into the Round of Eight for the Playoffs.