NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 18 Jamie McMurray

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Jamie McMurray

Season finish: 18th

2014 Season Stats: 0 Wins (won non-points Sprint All-Star Race), 7 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 2 Poles.

What went right: A late run enabled McMurray to win the Sprint All-Star Race in May at Charlotte, and while the event was non-points, we doubt he cared too much about that considering he banked a cool $1 million for his victory. His performance in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet also picked up noticeably towards the end of the season with four Top-5s and five Top-10s during the Chase stretch. That run included his best finish of the year, a third at – where else? – Charlotte.

What went wrong: McMurray couldn’t follow up the All-Star triumph with a berth in the Chase. Inconsistent results over the summer meant that he would have to win a regular season race in order to make the post-season. With that in mind, he endured perhaps the toughest moment of his year in the Bristol night race. McMurray came alive in the second half of that event and was leading when a debris caution came out at 70 laps to go. He pitted but instead of moving back up with the fresh rubber, handling issues made him fade to eighth by the finish.

2015 Prospectus: After a year where he improved in Top-5 and Top-10 results from 2013 but failed to enter the battle for the championship, McMurray will look to take care of the latter problem with a new crew chief in Matt McCall (former race engineer for Championship 4 contender Ryan Newman). If they can find a rhythm early together, the Hendrick-powered 1 camp could more often be among the series’ regular group of front-runners.