ALL-STAR: Nothing To Lose - Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet ImpalaFirst All-Star start: 5/17/2003 Best finish: 9th, 2009 How he made the race: Won Nov. 2009 race at Talladega Superspeedway

Editor’s note: Eighteen drivers are guaranteed to start in the May 22 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which will be televised live on SPEED, starting at 7 pm Eastern. Following is the fourth of 18 profiles of those drivers locked into the field.

Jamie McMurray hasn’t enjoyed a ton of success in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In fact, he’s been downright dismal.

Until last year.

McMurray qualified his way into the 2009 race by finishing second in the preliminary Sprint Showdown and earning the final transfer spot into the main event.

Starting 20th out of 21 cars, McMurray steadily moved forward to come home ninth – by far his best finish in four All-Star appearances. Prior to last year, the Joplin, Mo., native had finished 19th, 18th and 22nd, respectively, in the popular non-points-paying event. Two of those results were DNFs.

So do McMurray’s past struggles make him dread the all-star race, which pays $1 million and change to the winner? Would he perhaps at least tweak the format of the race if he could?

It doesn’t sound that way. He’s actually a big fan of the race, especially in its present format that features 100 laps broken into four segments.

The only change from 2009 is the addition of a mandatory four-tire pit stop just before the final 10-lap dash for cash.

“The All-Star race is a perfect race – it’s 100 laps where the guys give it all – 100 percent effort into every lap, because when it comes down to it, we are not only racing for pride, but for a million dollars,” McMurray said.

All but one of McMurray’s All-Star appearances have been with Roush Fenway Racing, where he competed from 2006-2009 with minimal success. McMurray’s first all-star start was in 2003 with Chip Ganassi, the team owner with whom he reunited this season at the organization now known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

It was also with Ganassi that McMurray scored an improbable victory at Charlotte in just his second Cup start while subbing for the injured Sterling Marlin on Oct. 13, 2002. Though McMurray may not boast an exactly stellar record in the All-Star race, Charlotte will always be special to the 33-year-old.

He holds a solid but not spectacular overall record at the 1.5-mile track, posting six top-10s in 15 points races. Four of those top-10s came in a Ganassi-owned car.

“When I won at Charlotte for Chip initially, Sterling had already won in that car a couple times earlier in the season,” said McMurray, whose organization was recast as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing following the late 2008 merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing. “That race team was on it, not just the organization, but the 40 team. I mean, they were on their way to being able to contend for the championship. It was a great car to be able to step into. … But it was certainly, I would say, 'awkward' is my word for being able to win in your second start.

“I mean, I still remember that day; it's pretty clear in my mind. I remember being overwhelmed with the amount of media attention that you got because, you know, when you come from the Truck series or even the Busch (now Nationwide) Series, there's not near as much attention paid to those drivers as what the Cup guys get.”

McMurray has gone on to capture three more Cup wins, including his biggest of all in this year’s Daytona 500. McMurray also won twice with Roush Fenway - at Talladega last fall (solidifying his upcoming all-star berth) and at Daytona in July 2007.

Could an All-Star triumph be next?

He's certainly looking forward to trying.

“The All-Star weekend is always a pretty exciting time for all of us,” McMurray said. “Since the race isn’t for points, it seems like the racing is even a little more aggressive than normal because there’s nothing to lose.”