McMurray Heartened By Performance
August 24, 2014 | 4:44 P.M. EST
Jamie McMurray leads Matt Kenseth during Saturday night's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
BRISTOL, Tenn. - It wasn’t that a chance to make the Chase slipped away for Jamie McMurray at Bristol. He wasn’t focused on that.
He wanted something else.
“I more wanted to win the night race at Bristol more than I was worried about the Chase,’’ a sweat-soaked McMurray said moments after leading a race-high 148 laps but finishing eighth Saturday night.
Too far back in points from the final transfer spot, McMurray’s only way of making the Chase will be with a victory.
He seemed to be headed toward that, finding a groove few used and pacing the field throughout the second half of the race - despite being penalized for speeding on pit road earlier.
He got stuck on inside lane on a late restart and his car didn’t handle as well, leaving him with no chance to win.
While McMurray scored only his second top-10 finish in the last eight races, he was heartened by the team’s performance.
“It’s just about putting the race together all at the right time,’’ he said. “We had the best car, I felt like for the first three quarters of the race. As it rubbered up, we just didn’t keep up with it. It wasn’t up from a lack of effort.’’
McMurray’s success came from running half a groove lower than much of the field. It allowed him to cut underneath cars and not get stuck in the top groove. At least one driver radioed his team wondering what was making McMurray successful and if they needed to go that direction.
McMurray admits it was something he worked on in practice Friday. He told crew chief Keith Rodden he didn’t think that groove would be the fastest line “but I think my car will hold on better as we run.’’
Said Matt Kenseth, who followed McMurray at times during the race: “He would come off the corner real low. He was turning pretty good down in the middle of the corner, but it looked like his car was too tight to finish a corner up top.’’
For all that McMurray did during the race, the talk afterward returned to the Chase. Two races remain until the 16-driver field is set. McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing team uses Hendrick Motorsports engines and that should give him the speed he needs this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The final chance to make the Chase then comes at Richmond, a track where McMurray finished fourth last fall.