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McMurray already looking toward next season

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Jim Utter
July 28, 2011

Jamie McMurray is searching for much more than answers.


He’d also like to find the team with which he won three Sprint Cup Series races last season, including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.


Right now, his No. 1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team bears little resemblance to the one that left visions of a 2011 championship run in the minds of NASCAR media and fans alike.


Even McMurray has all but conceded there is little left to do this year but work toward making sure 2012 gets off to a better start.


“Our goal right now for the rest of the year is just to get our team back where it was at this time last year and hopefully to be more consistent in the races,” McMurray said Wednesday. “A lot of it’s not our doing. You can’t help flat tires, three blown up engines.


“That’s not anything that our team can do different. It’s just, I guess, luck of the draw or bad luck of the draw. More than anything right now, it’s just about getting a good baseline. Honestly, I mean, it’s just about working on next year already.”


That realization has to hurt.


Looking forward to next season was McMurray’s rallying cry last year as he won the unofficial title as the best driver not to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.


Through the fall, McMurray maintained winning two of the season’s biggest races and the fall race at Charlotte meant just as much as or more than a chance at a title.


A year later, McMurray once again has no hope for a title and not even any wins to hang his hopes on.


“You just have to keep your head up and not focus b& on all the negative stuff,” he said. “It’s really frustrating, the situation that we’re in. But it’s not really anyone’s doing. It’s just the cards that we’ve been dealt.


“For me, the most important thing is just keep your head up. I think our cars are still going to be plenty fast enough. You just get a little bit of good luck on our side—I still think we can contend to win a couple races this year.”


For McMurray, hope springs eternal, at least for now.


Notes


In what was an expected move, Hendrick Motorsports announced on Wednesday that crew chief Kenny Francis will join driver Kasey Kahne next season with the No. 5 Chevrolet team.


Francis will replace Lance McGrew, who serves as driver Mark Martin’s crew chief. Martin is leaving at season’s end.


“Our people have a lot of respect for Kenny and what he’s accomplished,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “We know the chemistry is already there with Kasey, and there’s no doubt Kenny will communicate very well with our folks.”


Kahne and Francis have been together since 2005.



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