McMurray more than content as career comes full circle

Jamie McMurray on his reunion with Chip Ganassi.
In rare cases, you can go home again.

And as with the case of Jamie McMurray, sometimes you have to leave home before you can realise that you want to go back.

McMurray's Daytona 500 victory on Sunday is the most obvious manifestation of his reunion with car owner Chip Ganassi. Not so obvious are the years of self-discovery that propelled McMurray back to his former boss and helped make the breakthrough win possible.

McMurray is one of the most relentlessly friendly drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup garage. He wants to be liked. But it was discontent with the direction of Chip Ganassi Racing that caused him to look elsewhere in 2005 and ultimately to sign a three-year deal with Roush Racing, starting in 2006.

“Part of my decision to leave, some of that came from - we ran so good in 2003, and they decided that they wanted to build all new chassis and redesign them,” McMurray said last week in his motor home, four days before winning the 500. “I was like, 'We just had a great season, and we sat on the pole the last race at Homestead.'

“And we came home from Homestead, and they cut 'em all up. I don't think we really had any data to back up what we were doing. That really upset me, and that kind of set my tone.”

Of course, there was the money. After turning down a succession of other suitors, McMurray accepted a then-unheard-of annual salary of $4 million from owner Jack Roush. That and the attention he received were irresistibly seductive.

“You always look at Jimmie Johnson's car and say, 'Man, if I was in Jimmie Johnson's car, I'd be doing the same thing.'” McMurray said. “I was so lucky at the time that I had Joe Gibbs and Roush and - I had literally everybody but Hendrick calling me and wanting me to be part of their organisation. And I got caught up in that a little bit.

“Instead of just taking what I had and really growing it, I got overwhelmed with everything that was being thrown at me, and the money - and there's just so much that goes along with that. It's not that I was like young at the time, but I was naive in a way, because I'd never been put in that position before.

“I'd been racing forever, and, gosh, you just hoped you could buy new tyres for your car, much less having these teams wanting you. That was a lot. It's the same thing, I think, for football players and every other professional athlete. You have people throwing money at you.”

Along with the move to Roush came culture shock. The vastness of the organisation, which occupies a campus as opposed to a single shop, was overwhelming.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
No. 1 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet - Jamie McMurray [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Jamie McMurray leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Their success, however, might be short-lived. The Daytona 500 has not proved to be a barometer of what will happen the rest of the season. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jamie McMurray celebrates victory in the 2010 Daytona 500   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]

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