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Statistically Speaking

2015 Forecast: McMurray, #9

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Jamie McMurray was arguably the most undervalued driver in 2014. Most salary cap games look primarily at raw finishes to increase or decrease a driver’s price tag and a sequence of unfortunate events early in the year kept McMurray from stringing top-10s together. In the first half of the season, he failed to back up one top-10 with another on a single occasion. He was able to post a four-race, top-15 streak at the beginning of the season and string five such results together in May/June, but that lacked the dramatic impact to make him a costly driver.

If his value had been determined by the strength of the No. 1 team during the race weekend, however, he would have been one of the most expensive drivers in the game because nearly all of his poor results came after suffering crash damage. The problems that claimed him were rarely of his own making, such as a cut tire at Martinsville Speedway while battling for a top-five position with Dale Earnhardt Jr. McMurray’s contact with the wall in that race sent him home 42nd.

McMurray refused to let those incidents detract from his concentration, however. While other drivers vowed vengeance for every perceived wrong, McMurray maintained focus and went to the next track determined that success was the best revenge. That attitude finally paid dividends in the final races of the season, although it was too late to make the Chase. McMurray finished fourth in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway in the regular season finale and that was the beginning of a three-race streak of top-10s. McMurray and his teammate Kyle Larson developed into the best non-Chase challengers in the final 10 races and will bring momentum to 2015.

Finishing in the top 10 in a NASCAR race is no easy task. In 2014, the driver with the best average finishing position was Jeff Gordon and his number was outside that mark with a 10.4. Fantasy owners need to look for top-10 drivers to add to their roster, but they should be largely content with consistent top-15s. And that is where McMurray shined brightest in the final races of the season.

McMurray’s luck changed with a seventh-place finish in Pocono Raceway’s August contest and that triggered an eight-race streak of top-15s. He slipped in back-to-back races at Dover International Speedway and Kansas Speedway during the Chase, but then finished 16th or better in five of the final six races. He scored fifth-place results at Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in the closing events.

Chip Ganassi Racing has not always been one of the teams fantasy players automatically considered on every track type, but their new alliance with Hendrick Motorsports paid huge dividends in 2014. That partnership stays in place for 2015 and might be the catalyst that allows them to remain in the lead pack. It will take a while for established fantasy owners to regard McMurray and Larson as favorites and that could be one of the biggest differentiators to an astute player’s roster.

 

Avg. Finish

Starts

Track

Best Finish

2014 race 1 finish

2014 race 2 finish

14.58

12

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

1

20

 

16.07

14

Darlington Raceway

2

16

 

16.17

12

Homestead - Miami Speedway – current

3

5

 

16.60

25

Charlotte Motor Speedway

1

5

3

16.67

12

Sonoma Raceway

2

4

 

17.21

19

Auto Club Speedway

4

6

 

17.25

24

Martinsville Speedway

2

42

16

17.38

24

Bristol Motor Speedway

3

38

8

17.73

22

Texas Motor Speedway

2

17

5

17.92

12

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

4

15

 

18.25

24

Dover Downs International

2

13

22

19.00

12

Watkins Glen International

3

14

 

19.17

24

Michigan International Speedway

4

12

 14

19.62

21

Atlanta Motor Speedway

6

12

 

19.79

24

Pocono Raceway

7

10

7

20.25

16

Kansas Speedway

7

39

25

20.36

25

Talladega SuperSpeedway

1

29

35

20.50

24

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

3

16

4

20.83

23

Phoenix International Raceway

3

10

14

21.25

24

Richmond International Raceway

4

13

4

21.25

12

Chicagoland Speedway

5

9

 

22.50

4

Kentucky Speedway

2

37

 

23.54

24

Daytona International Speedway

1

14

30

Inactive

14.50

4

North Carolina Speedway

3

   

22.00

1

Homestead - Miami Speedway - old

22

   

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.