DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jamie McMurray’s Daytona 500 victory shouldn’t have been considered an upset. It was his second consecutive victory on a track where carburetor restrictor plates are used, and it also was his second career victory at Daytona International Speedway.
It was, however, dramatic, and it marked McMurray’s first start in a new ride at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
"It’s unbelievable," said McMurray, 33, a native of Joplin, Mo. "I can’t really put it into words the way it feels. I talked to my wife this morning. She was like, you know, ‘What would it mean to you if you won this race today?’ I told her it would be like a dream come true.
"I’m trying to be genuine and as sincere as I can and not sound cliche. As a kid growing up, this is what you dream of, of being able to win the Daytona 500."
Perhaps McMurray had a sense of deja vu. In a previous stint (2002-05) driving for owner Chip Ganassi, he finished 13th, 11th and 12th in the (now) Sprint Cup standings and won at Charlotte Motor Speedway in his second race, substituting for injured Sterling Marlin.
McMurray received crucial drafting help from Greg Biffle, formerly his teammate at Roush Fenway Racing.
"I’m so happy for him," said Biffle. "I went straight to Victory Lane when I got done with my interviews. I felt like I was a big part of getting him up there because he spun his tires like crazy (on a restart), and I got against his bumper and was against his bumper all the way through second gear, third gear and fourth gear, and I pushed him across (turns) one and two, which I hadn’t done all night.
"I was able to stay against him down the backstretch and we just took off," said Biffle, who finished third.
"Plate racing is a lot about people helping you," said McMurray. "When you get out there, you have a decision to make when you get behind somebody of which one you want to help. I’ve been really fortunate that I’m pretty good friends with a lot of guys out there. You know, guys typically will help me when I get to plate races.
"You cannot win one of these races without help.
"It’s not just from one guy. It takes a lot of people. You’ve got to have a fast car, and everything’s got to work out for you. I’ve been obviously really fortunate the last two plate tracks."