Jamie McMurray knows his time is coming.
At some point in the not too distant future, the book will close on his NASCAR career.
It took the somewhat-forced retirement of Matt Kenseth, who McMurray raced against beginning in Late Models in 1994, for him to come to terms with that.
Kenseth’s career ended after 18 full-time seasons in the Cup Series, the first coming in 2000. His last start, in the 2017 finale, came at the age of 45 and with him as the oldest full-time driver on the circuit.
Paired with the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr., it was the latest in long line of departures from the sport in the last three years, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Danica Patrick and the surprise retirement of Carl Edwards last January.
“With Matt this year, it probably hit home the most, just because I’m such good friends with Matt,” McMurray said last month during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas. “I know how much he loved racing. It was awesome he was able to win at Phoenix this year in his last year. It’s kind of sad, honestly. I came in not long after those guys, so your days are somewhat numbered.”
The driver of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 Chevrolet has a rough target date he has in mind for exiting the spotlight he stepped into in 2002. That year he won his second Cup start while driving for an injured Sterling Marlin.
“My goal is to be able to race for maybe four more years, maybe a little bit more,” McMurray said.
If McMurray get his wish, that would have him exiting the Cup Series by at least the end of 2021, 19 years after his first start. Having turned 41 last June, he would be 45 at the end of that season.
Of the recently retired, Biffle came into the Cup Series full-time in 2003 with McMurray. Edwards made 13 starts in 2004 before his full rookie season in 2005. Like Kenseth, Earnhardt’s rookie year came in 2000.
McMurray, who has seven Cup wins, is one of five drivers remaining in Cup who competed full-time in 2003.
Newman and Johnson enter their 17th full-time Cup seasons.
Busch and Harvick enter their 18th full-time seasons.
Elliott Sadler also raced full-time in 2003. He will again be driving for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.
Four years may seem a long way off, but it’ll be here before you know it. How does McMurray anticipate dealing with having to make the decision on when to walk away? He’ll be taking notes from the recently retired.
“I will watch them for the next few years,” McMurray said. “I watched Biffle this year with it being his first year out of the sport. You watch that transition, because there’s some unknowns there of, we are so busy. Everybody in our industry is so busy every single weekend. You hear everyone talk about how hard it is to step away because of how much time you all of a sudden have. You have time for things you didn’t used to. It’s sad in a way.”