For just about anyone else, sitting 13th in points as the season winds down would be a disappointment. Unlike Jeff Gordon, there’s no question Jamie McMurray has no shot at a championship; that was settled before the Chase began. Yet, in spite of this, I submit it’s better to be Jamie McMurray in 2010 than it is to be Jeff Gordon.
All Jamie Mac has done is win three big races on three big stages. In just one season, he’s won the “Great American Race,” kissed the bricks at the cradle of car racing, and he’s taken the checkered flag in the heart of NASCAR country smack dab in the middle of the Chase. Like Val Kilmer in "Tombstone," he was supposed to be a supporting actor. Instead, he stole the show.
Admit it, you didn’t expect Jamie McMurray to have this kind of season. He was the odd man out at Roush Fenway in favor of David Ragan, he was stepping into what seemed like a shaky situation at Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing. Now this year, the humble Missourian can boast of delivering his boss a prestigious double (wins at the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400), and taking home the most purse money in NASCAR this side of Jimmie Johnson.
Compare that to the season Jeff Gordon has had. Fourth in points, Gordon still has a mathematic shot at a fifth championship. He has 82 wins and four championships, something McMurray will certainly never reach, and yet I’d be jealous of Jamie McMurray if I were Gordon.
You see, NASCAR is kind of funny that way. It’s really still more about winning races. By winning just ONE race, McMurray has more victories than Gordon, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth or Jeff Burton -- all Chase qualifiers.
Who do you think the happier driver is today? I think so, too. Of course, what makes Jamie Mac’s story so great exemplified class even when things weren’t going well. You didn’t hear McMurray calling out his crew, or just playing out the string. Heck, this was the guy who won at Talladega on his way out the door.
You’ll have to excuse me if I gush for a moment here. Nice guys in this sport are rare. Nice guys who win are rarer still. You fans who root for the raw, edgy types are entitled to your tastes. In a day where you have a bunch of drivers trying to out-intimidate The Intimidator, I’ll take the guy who speaks of faith, family and fallen friends in victory lane.
With all due respect to the future Hall of Famer, I think I’d rather be Jamie McMurray in 2010. All he’s done is just win big races. McMurray's case may well be one where it's better to be a racer for wins, than a chaser for a championship. There sure seems to be little doubt who's having more fun in 2010.