*Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for 24 drivers. We will release one driver preview per day over a 24-day stretch.
Years in Cup: 15
Career Wins: Seven
Biggest Accomplishment: Winning Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in 2010
Jamie McMurray and his Chip Ganassi Racing team may have made the Chase for the second time in 2016, but heading into 2017, the driver and team are looking to do more than just make the 16-driver playoff field.
Though McMurray has not won a race since the Fall of 2013 at Talladega, he has been able to put together enough consistent finishes to keep himself in contention for a Chase berth for the last few years, making the cut into the postseason for the first time in 2015 and again in 2016, where he was joined by his teammate Kyle Larson to get both of the Ganassi cars into the Chase for the first time in the organization’s history.
In his 36 starts last season, the Missouri native was able to finish in the top-five on two occasions at Talladega in May and the season finale at Homestead. Those two top-fives were accompanied by 12 top-10 finishes to give the No. 1 team an average finish of 15.8 en route to a 13th place finish in the points. Though he was able to make the Chase, he found himself eliminated after the first round for the second straight year.
With the team and driver showing their ability to make it into the Chase, the focus turns to being able to make a return to victory lane and making it deeper into the playoffs and not getting eliminated after the first three races again.
“I’m thrilled we made it, but it’s not just about making the Chase. The reason you’re so thrilled about making the Chase is because you feel like you have a chance to contend for a championship,” said McMurray.
“It’s a goal that everyone sets out at the beginning of the year to make the Chase. It’s a big deal for our organization to have both cars in the Chase, which is something our organization had never done before.”
“You hope you can put some races together and make it all happen. I’ll promise you everyone from Kevin Harvick to Chris Buescher thinks they have a chance when the Chase begins. If they don’t, you should probably find something else to do.”
Heading into 2017, look for McMurray and his team to be in the hunt for a Chase berth once again and if the cards fall right, we may just see the No. 1 team back in victory lane for the first time in four years. McMurray has always excelled at the restrictor plate tracks, with four of his seven career wins coming at Daytona or Talladega, so if he is going to win a race, that could be the ticket to getting it done.