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Preview: McMurray hopes Brickyard gets him back on track

July 29, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

Jamie McMurray this week was delicately asked about scenarios which could still get him into this year's Chase. McMurray wasn't having any of that kind of talk.

"Yeah, I'm not thinking that anyway," McMurray said Wednesday.

"Indy is a special race for all of the teams. Everyone wants to win at the Brickyard."


But while McMurray has all but written off a berth in the playoffs, which are now just seven races away, he does not sound ready to spend the rest of 2011 riding around wasting expensive racing fuel. He most certainly will not be doing that this weekend.

Sunday's race is the crown jewel Brickyard 400 at the most famous race track in the world. And McMurray will be walking the garages, pits and Gasoline Alley as the defending Brickyard champion and thinking a repeat victory could take a bit of the bite out of a very frustrating season.

"Indy is a special race for all of the teams," McMurray said. "Everyone wants to win at the Brickyard. This is one of the races that all drivers and teams specially prepare for. The teams build new cars, the engine shops get their best engines prepared, there is just a lot of emphasis on this race."

Chase contender or not. And McMurray is probably not.

The 35-year-old Missouri native will arrive at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the depths of a train wreck of a season which is being made even more grisly coming on the heels of his best NASCAR season.

The winner of not just the Brickyard in 2010, but also the massively important Daytona 500 and fall race at Charlotte, McMurray today is 29th in points -- 170 out of the 10th and final Chase slot.

Not even a victory at Indy -- or some other event held before the Chase starts at Chicagoland Speedway in mid-September -- would likely be enough to get him a wild card berth as he's 100 points out of wild card-necessary 20th place.

"There's three or four guys that have won races that are all, I don't know, from 14th to 15th to 22nd in points, somewhere in there," McMurray said Wednesday. "Even winning one race, I don't think you'd get the wild card because of the points you'd have to make up. Maybe if you win a couple, you would have a shot at that. But honestly, I mean, our goal right now for the rest of the year is just to get our team back where it was at this time last year and hopefully to be more consistent in the races."

McMurray said the problem this year has not been inconsistent effort on the part of his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team. It has been consistently bad luck. McMurray has been a victim of Murphy's Law.

"It's the same thing," he said. "We're on our third engine failure of the year, we broke one transmission. It feels like if we do have a race that things start going our way, then you have a flat tire. We've had six or eight flat tires this year. Ran out of gas at Loudon. It just seems like if it could go wrong, it has."

McMurray says things could easily go right this weekend for him. Not only does he have the victory at Indy, he also has three other top-10 finishes there. His EGR teammate, Juan Montoya, also has run well there. He won the Indy 500 for Ganassi's IndyCar team and almost won the 400 two years ago.

"To me," McMurray said, "Indy is one of those tracks that if you like the track, it tends that the same guys always run well there."

Who's Hot / Who's Not

• Jeff Gordon (440) has led the most laps at Indy; his total more than doubles that of closest competitor Tony Stewart (217).
• Juan Montoya has started on the front row in three of his four Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
• Mark Martin has finished 11th or better in his past six races at the Brickyard; he has started third or better in the past three.
• Greg Biffle has started 12th or better in his past five races at Indianapolis.
• Tony Stewart has finished eighth or better in six of his past seven Indy races.
• Kurt Busch has just one top-10 finish in his past six Indy races.
• In his past nine races at Indianapolis, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has but one finish inside the top 10.
• Among those seeking their first top-10 finish at Indy are Paul Menard, David Ragan and Martin Truex Jr.
• Jamie McMurray, who won this race last year, will try to break a nine-race streak in which he has not finished in the top 10.
• Dave Blaney and Jeff Burton remain the only drivers to start all 19 races without a top-10 finish.

And boy, does McMurray like that track.