Left unsettled amid Tuesday’s fanfare that anointed Kurt Busch as the new driver of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 Chevrolet was the organization’s plan for Jamie McMurray, who has held the seat for the last nine seasons.
Team owner Chip Ganassi says he anticipates that McMurray will stay, hinting at the potential for a new capacity with the team’s management.
“Well, first of all, I do expect Jamie to stick around, yes,” Ganassi said Tuesday in a joint teleconference with Busch. “And as we talked about, we are going to have some announcements forthcoming on that subject.”
McMurray, 42, brought team owner Chip Ganassi some of his biggest NASCAR triumphs, including wins in the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in a stellar 2010 season. But McMurray had gone winless since a 2013 victory at Talladega, and he missed the Monster Energy Series playoffs this season.
The Associated Press reported in September that Ganassi had offered McMurray a final ride in the 2019 Daytona 500 before he moves to a potential managerial role with the organization. A handful of former drivers have made such a shift for Ganassi, including NASCAR vet Josh Wise, now an athletic trainer, and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who serves as a driver consultant.
“I think anytime you have guys that are current in the sport, it’s an opportunity,” Ganassi said. “That is what guys like Josh or Dario or Jamie can bring. They are the most current guys that are maybe not driving for one reason or another and that is something that is invaluable in a team organization. You are constantly building this book of information and you are constantly tapping this book of knowledge or building it. You have another head in the room. It doesn’t have to be much, just one little piece of advice or one little tidbit of information can be invaluable on a race weekend.”
McMurray drove for Ganassi from 2002-05 and — after a four-year stint at Roush Fenway Racing — from 2010-2018. Five of his seven wins came with Ganassi, including a surprising breakthrough victory in just his second premier-series start as a substitute for the injured Sterling Marlin.
That first win set McMurray on his way as a hot commodity and helped establish his legacy with the team owner. As Ganassi suggests, it’s a legacy that he hopes will continue inside the walls of the team’s Concord, North Carolina shop.
“I think, when you have an entrance into the sport like that, put that down as your foundation,” Ganassi said, “and then building upon that with obviously two or three wins leading up to 2010 there where he won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard in that sort of storybook year that the entire organization had, Jamie has got a nose for the front of the pack. He is the type of driver that wakes up when you can get him to the front.
“So, I think, as I’ve said before, I want him to continue on with our organization and I think in the coming weeks you will find that out. I think he is somebody that can take a lot of stock in any of the success that this team has or happens in the future. Jamie can take a lot of stock in that in helping bring a level of maturity to the organization when it was badly needed.”