Auto Racing Extras
McMurray feeling little pressure on making the Chase

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - With two races to go before the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" begins at New Hampshire, Daytona 500 champion and Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray says he won't be disappointed if he doesn't qualify for the playoffs.

McMurray moved up to 13th in the point standings after finishing third last week at Bristol. He trails 12th-place Clint Bowyer by a distant 100 points, while Mark Martin is one marker behind McMurray in the 14th spot.

"It certainly is a better position to be in right now for us, because there only is one person we have to pass," McMurray said. "When you have three or four in between you, you have to hope all of them have something bad happen to all them.

"But [Bowyer] is running really well right now. I kind of put him in the same category as us. They are running really well, but they've had a lot of DNFs [Did Not Finish]. I think that team will perform fine, and we will just have to wait and see how it works out."

Despite winning the two most prestigious races of the season, it's been an inconsistent season for McMurray, who is in his first year as driver of the No.1 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Jamie McMurray has scored four top-10 finishes in the last six races.
McMurray didn't know who he would drive for in 2010 after his Roush Fenway Racing No.26 team folded tent at the end of the 2009 season. McMurray landed a ride with EGR in the No.1 car after Martin Truex Jr. moved over to Michael Waltrip Racing.

McMurray made an impressive debut with EGR by winning the season-opening Daytona 500, but after the series raced again in Daytona last month, McMurray sat 19th in points.

Since then, McMurray has scored four top-10 finishes, including his Indianapolis victory, in the last six races.

After the September 11 race at Richmond -- the 26th and final event in the Sprint Cup regular season -- the top-12 drivers in points will make up the field for the Chase -- the final 10 races that determine the champion.

So the pressure is on for several drivers in the next two races, particularly Martin, who finished second to champion and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the 2009 Chase, and Ryan Newman, who ended last season ninth in points. Newman is 118 points in back of Bowyer.

But the stress of making the Chase is not necessarily affecting McMurray as much as other drivers who are attempting to make the field.

While McMurray is content with winning more races this season, he's letting crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion do the worrying about making the Chase.

"[Manion] certainly is worried about it," McMurray said. "I remember the stress that goes along with that, and I'm really fortunate this year that we were able to win those two big races, because if we don't make the Chase, it's not going to be devastating."

McMurray's chances of making the Chase are slim, but history shows that by no means is he out of the running.

In 2006, Kasey Kahne was 90 points behind the cutoff spot for the Chase with two races to go, but Kahne won at California and then finished third at Richmond to squeak into the playoffs by 16 points. The Chase field back then consisted of 10 drivers. NASCAR expanded it to 12 the following year.

Can McMurray better Kahne's feat from four years ago? That's going to greatly depend on how well Bowyer performs at Atlanta and Richmond.

"I love Atlanta and Richmond and run well there," Bowyer said. "With any luck at all, we'll be in this thing."

Bowyer certainly deserves to be in the Chase this year after his disappointing season in '09, but it would also make for a feel-good story if McMurray can rise up and qualify for the field.

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