Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Jamie McMurray hadn't been to victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series in three years, but after winning Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway, his emotions got the best of him.
Though it wasn't a typical Talladega race that features one or more major accidents - "the big one" - it did end under caution after Austin Dillon and Casey Mears wrecked on the backstretch during the final lap. McMurray was leading, just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., when the caution flag was displayed.
While celebrating in victory lane for the first time since Oct. 16, 2010 at Charlotte (109 races ago), McMurray got teary-eyed when his 2-year-old son, Carter, came up and hugged him during his post-race interview with ESPN. His wife, Christy, gave birth to their daughter, Hazel, in February.
"For me, the best part of this is, and I told Christy before, that it would be so cool to have your kids in victory lane, so it's pretty awesome," McMurray said.
McMurray now has seven victories in NASCAR's premier series, but some of them have been heartfelt wins, particularly in the 2010 Daytona 500. It was his first start with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates after spending the previous four years with Roush Fenway Racing.
The night before Talladega, team owner Chip Ganassi won the 2013 IndyCar Series championship after Scott Dixon drove to a fifth-place finish in the season finale in Fontana, Calif. Ganassi, who was still in Southern California, gave McMurray a congratulatory phone call immediately following his win.
"Chip won the IndyCar championship (Saturday), so it's been a good day," McMurray said.
McMurray did not make it into this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, but his win at Talladega moved him up one spot to 14th in the point standings, which is the top position for the non-Chase drivers.
"It's important for the whole organization," McMurray said. "Chip and Felix have made a really big financial commitment to our team. The switch to the Hendrick engines was not even par with the ECR engines. It was a big financial tax on the team, and I think it's made our cars better. Our cars have definitely been better this year, but getting to victory lane, really doesn't matter what track, it definitely is a momentum builder for our whole organization."
McMurray made his Cup debut at Talladega on Oct. 6, 2002. Ganassi had selected him as the substitute driver for Sterling Marlin after Marlin suffered a neck injury during a crash at Kansas. One week after Talladega, McMurray pulled off a stunning win at Charlotte.
Two months ago, McMurray extended his contract with EGR as driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet. He will team with and serve as mentor to Kyle Larson, who will take over Juan Pablo Montoya's seat in the No. 42 car at the start of next season.
EGR has put a lot of investment into its two Sprint Cup teams this year, in hopes of being a championship contender in the future. The racing organization has been in the Chase only once (Montoya in 2009).
"I think we've had a lot of opportunities to win this year, but we've had some bad luck," Sabates said. "If you look at all our races this year, some it's our fault that we lost, but some of the races we just got caught in accidents that weren't our fault.
"I'm excited about next year, but I'm more excited about the next four races because we have our own Chase. The guy that finishes first out of the Chase gets a huge bonus, and that could help a lot of the expenses we had this year if Jamie finishes the first guy out of the Chase."
After McMurray has scored the victory in the fourth and final restrictor plate race this season, the series heads to Martinsville, the shortest track on the series schedule, this coming weekend.
"Plate tracks are probably my best tracks, and Martinsville is probably my next best," McMurray said. "This is a great place to be able to win at to take not only my confidence but everybody else within our group to that track (Martinsville), where I feel we'll run really well."