For much of the 2014 season, Jamie McMurray and his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing team has been fast but luck has not been on their side.
Solid runs at Bristol, Martinsville, and Kansas were spoiled by things beyond their control, leading to four finishes of 29th or worse in the first 11 races of the year.
Yet Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, everything came together for McMurray and his Keith Rodden-led crew as they scored the win in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
While the All-Star Race isn’t a points-paying event, the win goes a long way in building McMurray’s confidence.
After years of ups and downs, team owner Chip Ganassi revamped his organization, bringing in new engineers, crew chiefs and rookie driver Kyle Larson. Throughout it all, Ganassi kept his faith and commitment to McMurray.
"I think (the media) miss a lot of times what it really takes to be in this sport week in and week out, with a family, with the demands that are put on these athletes in any topâlevel sport," Ganassi said. "It can be trying at times, and in the ups and downs and the mental side of the sport can be very difficult, and 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 (Saturday night)."
For McMurray, Ganassi’s commitment to change and improvement has paid off so far this year, but the results just haven’t been what they expected.
"For me this year, and Keith coming over and the amount of money and effort that Chip and Felix (Sebates) have put into our team, that makes you believe, that helps," McMurray said. "And even though you guys don’t see it most likely, our team, when I look at our year, we’ve been like one of the better cars of a lot of races at certain points in the race, and it just seems like every race this season that we’ve had a car really capable of running well.
"Bristol we were running fifth and (Kevin) Harvick blew that oil line in front of us, last week (in Kansas) we blew a tire out. It seemed like every time we had a good car something would happen," he said. "That’s really frustrating and that gets your confidence down. But I texted Keith last week, and I’m like, keep your head up, we’re doing our ââ our cars are really fast, and that’s the hardest part of our sport is to have fast cars. Good luck, bad luck, that happens, but if your cars are slow, that’s hard to fix in a short amount of time, and we’ve had awesome cars."
Ganassi said he has seen the progress as well, even if the finishes for the No. 1 team hadn’t necessarily reflected it — until Saturday night.
"I guess it’s nice to have a validation from time to time of your MO," Ganassi added after Saturday night’s win. "It’s nice to ring the cash register, if you will, from time to time in this business to let you know that you can still do it, and the way that you operate the business, the way you motivate your team, the components you put together, the people, all those pieces that have to come together.
"Sports teams are a very delicate balance of personalities and equipment, and it’s nice, like I said, to validate that from time to time."
With the win and extra boost of confidence on their side, luck might just be turning around for McMurray and the No. 1 team.