HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jamie McMurray hasn’t decided if he will race the 2019 Daytona 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing, but he has made peace with his NASCAR career essentially being over.
And because of the advice of his peers and his own experience with pursuing a ride, he’s ready for it.
“I’m really fortunate that I wasn’t the first of all my friends, so I’ve talked to (Greg) Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Casey Mears last week,” the No. 1 Chevrolet driver said Friday after practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I’ve talked to a lot of drivers that have recently went through it, and everyone’s story is exactly the same. And so if I feel the way that they do, I’m looking forward to three to four races into next year.”
McMurray said he will make a decision “soon” on Ganassi’s offers to drive in a third car for the team at Speedweeks 2019 and take on a management role with the organization (similar to that of Dario Franchitti with Ganassi’s IndyCar team), but there’s “just a lot of other things that I’m going through trying to figure out that I can’t say, but I hope I can soon.” He said he is considering other racing opportunities (though virtually ruled out sports cars).
But if he races at Daytona International Speedway, that likely will be it in NASCAR’s premier series for McMurray, who is wrapping up his 16th full season (and his second stint at Ganassi, where he has driven Cup from 2002-05 and ’10-18).
“I had opportunities to drive, they just weren’t opportunities I wanted,” he said. “I was fighting for one of the (open) rides. There was a point that honestly I looked at it, and I was like, ‘I don’t know that I want them to call me back.’
“I was fighting because I thought it was the right thing to do, but I wanted to drive (at Ganassi). I like this team, and I have so much history, I didn’t want to bounce somewhere else for a year and be unhappy.”
McMurray, 42, said his decision was easier after watching Kenseth return in a part-time role with Roush Fenway Racing this year after losing his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth has said Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway likely will be his last race because he didn’t like readjusting to the NASCAR grind and missing time with his four young daughters.
McMurray, a father of two with his wife, Christy, also is looking forward to more family time.
“Matt’s my best friend, my closest racing buddy, and so I spent a lot of time talking to Matt about his feelings toward everything and what he’s thinking,” McMurray said. “Because everyone says eventually you do miss the competition side of it, but the rest of (the season) is super tiring, and it’s just been so long.
“That’s made my transition easier because every single one of those people that have transitioned out (of NASCAR) have called and told me the same story, and it’s all ended in a good way.”
The Joplin, Missouri, native has stayed mum on his future because he wanted to avoid an awkward farewell, but he will be commemorating the 582nd start of a Cup career that includes seven victories (including the 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400). Besides his wife, children, mother and father, he also is flying in his sister, Trisha, who will be attending one of her brother’s Cup races for the first time.
McMurray said he probably will reveal his future plans on social media.
“I would have loved to tell everybody what I think I’m going to do next year, but I just don’t have it finalized yet, so I’m just going to kind of wait,” he said.