Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray as team’s ‘big game hunter’ into 2015

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Running in the Rolex 24 at Daytona every year has its advantages for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers – particularly this year with the testing ban and fewer crossovers in the race — those who raced have received more attention.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray is one of those drivers. We spoke to McMurray at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test to outline his Sprint Cup goals in working with new crew chief Matt McCall.

But in the interim something changed, and the narrative about McMurray has centered more on what he accomplished at this year’s Rolex 24.

McMurray was a key cog in the overall winning lineup with Cup teammate Kyle Larson and CGR IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford.

McMurray joined two of the all-time greatest racers in Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers in history to have won the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24.

A week later, McMurray reflected on the accomplishment and its impact.

“To win last week was huge… growing up racing karts, my goals were to make it to NASCAR Winston Cup at the time, contend for wins and one day the championship,” McMurray said. “I never had the dream of winning the Rolex 24. But without driving for Chip and Felix, you don’t have the opportunity.

“Racing in it is big. It’s my favorite race. It’s one I look forward to because of the other bonding with drivers, the crews from Indy I don’t get to see. You get to hang out with drivers, and to win it is quite unbelievable.

“With two to three hours to go, I stood on side of pit box and realized it could happen. We had Scott Dixon in the car – I think the world of him – and he was the most talented guy on the track that weekend.”

Ganassi and minority team owner Felix Sabates both spoke highly of how McMurray has evolved and forecast their hopes and expectations for 2015.

“We saw Jamie last year win the All-Star Race,” Ganassi said. “That was pretty big. You’d have to call Jamie … a ‘big-game hunter.’ He wins all the big races.”

McMurray’s presence also has expanded into national ads. He’s been featured recently with LeBron James for a McDonald’s Monopoly game, and CGR president Steve Lauletta said McDonald’s is looking at another.

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”