Crunching numbers after Indianapolis

July, 27, 2010

So here I am, back in Connecticut after a week at the Brickyard. After a successful week of remotes -- my only work road trip of the year -- it's good to be back in my own bed.

How should I sum up the week in Indianapolis? I think the only way is with a little story. Feel free to print this out and read it in bed as you doze off. I've been told this blog is a great sleep aid. Hey, wait …

Jamie McMurray came into NASCAR as a hot prospect, and won in his second career start, subbing for the injured Sterling Marlin. After a couple semi-successful years for Chip Ganassi Racing, in which he nearly made the Chase, McMurray moved on to one of the superpowers, which is now Roush Fenway Racing.

There, he inherited a team that Kurt Busch had driven to a title just a couple years prior. After finishing 13th, 11th and 12th in points with Ganassi, McMurray finished 25th, 17th, 16th and 22nd with Roush, despite adding a couple restrictor-plate wins to his résumé.

When Roush Fenway was forced to cut back from five to four teams for this season, McMurray was the odd man out, leaving him job hunting as the 2010 season drew near.

Then came what I'm sure was an emotional reunion with Chip Ganassi, which I'm sure included crying, man hugs and somebody uttering the line "You had me at hello."

The issue here is that the sponsor didn't see McMurray as their kind of guy, almost costing him the ride. Guess they don't mind now that their logo has been in Victory Lane at the two biggest NASCAR races of the year: the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.

I'm also sure that one-year contract at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will be extended, too.

Now, since I'm quickly filling up my word limit, let's move on to some postrace notes from the Brickyard 400.


I feel like the move here is just to blow through some McMurray nuggets, lightning-round style.

McMurray became just the third driver to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season, joining Dale Jarrett in 1996 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006. Johnson won the title, Jarrett finished third. McMurray is still 151 points out of a Chase spot.

As you heard leading the postrace coverage on "NASCAR Now," Chip Ganassi became the first owner to win the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season. As a matter of fact, he's the only winner to have won all three of those races.

I may have mentioned at some point leading up to the race that no driver outside the top 10 in points had ever won this race. Well, McMurray entered 18th, but this is misleading, seeing as he's now finished second or better in the four biggest NASCAR races of the season.

He won Daytona and the Brickyard, and was second in the 600-miler at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington.

Trivia break: Who is the only other driver to finish in the top five in the Daytona 500, Coke 600, Southern 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season?

Juan Gone

Oh, the humanity.

A year after giving away a Brickyard 400 win with a pit-road speeding penalty, Juan Pablo Montoya again proved to have one of -- if not the -- driver to beat at Indy. But it was not to be after taking four ineffective tires late in the race, leading to his hitting both the inside and outside walls.

Only four times has a driver led more than half of a Brickyard 400 and failed to win the race. Montoya's now done it twice.

At least he can still go home and look at his Indy 500 and Grand Prix of Monaco trophies.

Trivia break: Who were the other two drivers to lead more than half of a Brickyard 400 and not win?

Bowtie Brigade

One of my favorite notes of the weekend came from Saturday morning during qualifying, courtesy of our friends at Racing Resources.

Nine of the top 10 qualifiers were in Chevrolets, and while you might yawn at that (how dare you!), it's the first time since the 1993 season finale that a single manufacturer had nine of the top-10 qualifying spots.

In that race, at Atlanta, Harry Gant's Chevy sat on the pole, and the next 11 qualifiers were in Fords. The race winner? Rusty Wallace in a Pontiac.

Trivia break: Ford remains winless for this season. What was the last year Ford went winless in a season?

Trivia Break Answers

(1) With an asterisk, Jeff Gordon did it in 1997. I add an asterisk, because in 2006, Jimmie Johnson was a top-5 at the only Darlington race, but it wasn't a Southern 500.

(2) Rusty Wallace did it in 2000 and Jeff Burton did it in 2006.

(3) Ford was winless in 1977, the last time it has gone this far into a season without a win.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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