Jamie McMurray could take the green flag, immediately blow an engine and he would be fine.
McMurray, a 14-year veteran of the Sprint Cup circuit, just needs to start Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway and he will be locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
In the 11 years since its inception, it would be the Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s first time as a participant with a shot to win the championship.
McMurray has won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Coca-Cola 600, but has failed to make the Chase in its multiple incarnations.
McMurray finished 14th in Sunday night’s Southern 400, his best result at Darlington Raceway since finishing ninth in 2011. He is currently 12th on the Chase chart, the highest among the five drivers in the top 16 with no wins.
“Honestly for the last 10 weeks we have been racing … literally if you don’t have a car that can win you are just trying to get the most points you can,” McMurray said following the race.
He said his in-car radio only worked “two percent’ of the race. “We had an okay car tonight. I was super conservative … I was really conservative on restarts and really throughout the whole race. I’m hoping that we are locked in tonight so that we can go to Richmond and race and have fun. And just know that there are no consequences.”
But even if there are dire consequences at RIR or teammate Kyle Larson wins, McMurray will head to Chicagoland Speedway giving Ganassi only its second Chase appearance after Juan Pablo Montoya did it in 2009.
“The feeling will be so much different knowing that you are locked in versus there is a really slim chance that you can get knocked out,” McMurray said.
Though his first Chase appearance will be a welcome career moment, he had other things on his mind in the hours after the race.
After NASCAR’S regular season ends, 16 drivers will advance to the Chase. Drivers will be eliminated after each round until a champion is crowned. Sign up at nbcsports.com/gridchallenge for a chance to win $16 million.