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

Leave a comment

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.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.