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Jamie McMurray doesn’t mind the stress of trying to make the Chase

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500

DARLINGTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 04: Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet, races Ryan Blaney, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 4, 2016 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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DARLINGTON, S.C. - Jamie McMurray won’t have it so easy at Richmond International Raceway this time around.

A year removed from just having to start the Federated Auto Parts 400 to lock himself into the Chase, McMurray enters Richmond this weekend with a seven-point advantage on Ryan Newman for the final transfer spot. McMurray’s gap shrunk Sunday night in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway when he had to give up his track position late to pit for missing lug nuts.

“It’s stressful,” McMurray said. “The way I approach that is, I spent years not being in this position and the fact that you get to be there and be nervous about it is a pretty good feeling to have.”

As opposed to the easy route McMurray had into the playoffs last season, he’ll be the driver those on the outside looking in will be gunning for next weekend. But should he hold on and there are no new winners, McMurray would have qualified for the Chase for the second consecutive season and second time in his career.

“Richmond has been a really good track for me and we’ve finished well the last two or three years; we’ve run really well there,” he said. “We just go and race. I thought tonight our car was really good, should have ran sixth to eighth possibly just had a lug nut off on the next to last stop, I guess we only had three on, so we had to come back in. Felt like we couldn’t run the last 10 laps with the wheel that loose. It stinks but it is what it is.”

Teammate Kyle Larson is already locked into the playoffs after winning last weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Larson led laps Sunday night and McMurray also spent time running in the top five.

“Our cars have been really good for the last four or five weeks,” McMurray said. “Going to Chicago we actually got a complete new chassis and everything that I tested and (it) was quite a bit better I thought than even what we had here tonight. It just takes a little while to implement all that stuff. So yeah, if we can get in the Chase I think our cars will be really strong.”

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