Will Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray be a one-hit wonder?
It's a nice story, the redemption of
You know what happened on Sunday in the Great America Race. McMurray, after struggling mid-pack for most of the event, suddenly surged to the lead with two laps left -- his first lead of the day. He then held off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win his first Daytona 500. He cried in his car. Cried in Victory Lane. And cried in the media center. Clearly, this was a monumental night in the life and times of the clear-spoken, God-fearing native of Joplin, Mo.
But does it auger success for McMurray for the rest of the 2010 season? In a word: no. The last two Daytona 500 winners --
That leads us to this point: Daytona and Talladega -- the two-restrictor plate tracks on the circuit -- produce more fluke winners than any other venues. Restrictor plates, after all, reduce the speeds in the cars and force the drivers to run in large packs. This levels the playing field between the have and have-not teams and allows someone like McMurray, who's never qualified for the Chase and before Sunday had only three career wins in 258 starts, to seemingly come out of nowhere and win the most important stock car race of the season.
But McMurray could very well buck this trend of 500 winners fading into the back of the pack as the season progresses. Why? Three reasons.
On Sunday in Fontana we'll have a better understanding of what McMurray will be capable of this season. Fontana, unlike Daytona, doesn't produce fluke winners. My hunch is this: McMurray, two months from now, will have proven to everyone in the garage -- and there are plenty of McMurray skeptics within the sport -- that he's no one-race wonder.