CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -The pressure is officially on Jamie McMurray, a one-time Chase contender who now finds himself in jeopardy of missing races.
A disastrous start to the season – his best finish was a 22nd at California – sent McMurray into NASCAR’s first off weekend ranked 36th in the points standings. It had to have made for a miserable break for McMurray.
He heads into Martinsville Speedway, where he must qualify on speed to make Sunday’s race. It’s an agonizing position for any driver, but must be particularly difficult for the self-loathing McMurray – a guy who was so despondent over his first season at Roush Fenway Racing, he couldn’t sleep and was convinced he had to relearn how to drive.
A personal trainer and a sports psychologist helped him rebuild his confidence, and the work seemed to pay off last season when McMurray snapped a 166-race winless streak and showed flashes of the skill that had once anointed him NASCAR’s next superstar.
A replacement driver for an injured Sterling Marlin, McMurray set a NASCAR record by winning in his second start in October 2002.
But with just two victories in 191 career starts, he’s never lived up to that early billing. Even now, in his topflight Roush ride, McMurray is struggling to get the job done.
With the pressure mounting to solidify a spot inside the top 35, McMurray instead finished 40th or worse in the past two races. His last-place finish two weeks ago in Bristol dropped him five spots in the standings, and put him officially outside the top 35.
And there’s no relief in sight.
NASCAR Driver Jamie McMurray in Jeoparady25 03 2008