Jamie McMurray looks for more Daytona history, but ponders 500 group qualifying

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Jamie McMurray joined an elite club last month when he helped Chip Ganassi Racing win the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. He became only the third driver to win that race and the Daytona 500, which he did in 2010.

But McMurray says he hasn’t sat down to think about the accomplishment, even though he’s had reminders of it.

“I think the coolest part after winning [the Rolex] is … They did this really neat photo of A.J. [Foyt], Mario [Andretti] and I – the only three guys that have won the 500 and the Rolex 24, and that was mind-boggling to see that and it be real,” McMurray recalled Thursday at Speedweeks media day at DIS.

“[It’s] not something you made at the carnival. That was really cool and it was really special to be in that group. [But] I don’t know – I think those are things that you think about when you stop racing and you look back. I look at five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be here so who knows where you are going to go.”

What McMurray knows is that another opportunity to become the 12th driver to win the Daytona 500 multiple times is coming up on Feb. 22. A win would also fulfill half of CGR co-owner Felix Sabates’ guarantee during last month’s NASCAR Media Tour that both McMurray and teammate Kyle Larson would make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But first thing’s first and that’s Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, followed by 500 qualifying on Sunday. The latter will decide the front row as usual, but this year, it will be run in a group qualifying format.

Because of that, McMurray admitted that he has no real plan for how to attack it.

“I don’t know that anyone has given it a tremendous amount of thought,” he said. “The [Richard Childress Racing] cars that are with the [ECR engine] package, those guys have done by far the best job of grouping up and making it through each round.

“You just have to be so lucky. There is not really any skill to it. It’s about being lucky, getting in the correct line and getting the best draft that you can. You just can’t time it out. There is not enough time anymore to do that. Even when there was time, I think it was just about impossible to time that out anyway.”

McMurray further elaborated about group qualifying on restrictor plate tracks by recalling his experience with it last fall at Talladega.

“There was a guy that was in my group at the last Talladega race that his car was so slow that it wouldn’t keep up with the four or five (car) pack that we had going,” McMurray said. “He lost the draft, fell back to the group behind us and he made it [into the next round] and our group didn’t.

“That was lucky that he was able to do that and not skill.”