Chip Ganassi Racing Still Feeling Chase Pressure

Chip Ganassi Racing Still Feeling Chase Pressure

by October 14, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

CONCORD, N.C. — Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of drivers – Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson – may not be in the Chase contending for the 2014 Sprint Cup championship, however, as McMurray puts it – they’re still feeling pressure for the final five races of the season.

While both drivers will be unable to finish this season higher than 16th in the drivers’ standings, they’re still able to contend for wins – accolades that are well within the grasp of the two-car team.

Coming off of third-place finish in Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, McMurray heads to a race that provided him with his sole win of the 2013 season – the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet has a knack for winning Chase races despite having never qualified for the Chase. Three of his seven career wins have come in Chase races with two being at Talladega and one being at Charlotte.

Given his history of performing well in the 10-race stretch to close the season, McMurray states that he still feels some form of pressure on his shoulders to perform well and to avoid a winless season for the Ganassi camp.

“Kyle and I, when we sit in our team meetings and talk, it’s just about trying to win,” McMurray said following Saturday night’s race. “We have a completely different type of pressure on us than what Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon and these guys, they’re kind of having their own little race, and Kyle and I are just going out every week and trying to win.”

McMurray was close to victory on Saturday night, spending a majority of his night floating around in the top-three and with a total of five laps spent in the lead. McMurray was unable to get into a position to close on eventual race winner Kevin Harvick on the race’s final restart with two laps to go even though he felt he had a car that was even in terms of pace with Harvick.

“Very similar to what Jeff [Gordon] said on the last restart, once you get out front, once the 4 car cleared Jeff, he’s kind of along for the next two laps,” he said. “You can’t put a pass on a car that’s equal to you when it gets out front. When I was leading early in the race, as soon as Kevin passed me and we went into the next corner, it’s just unbelievable how much worse your car drives.

“I really didn’t have a chance. I tried to get to the outside of the 4 car and make it three wide, but I went through there wide open and I wasn’t able to get to his quarter panel, so I did all I could.”

Larson himself had a strong performance on Saturday night as well with a sixth-place finish coming for the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet.

The leading driver of the Rookie of the Year standings led five laps like his teammate in the 334-lap race and would also spend a majority of his night running solidly in the top-10.

Though he wasn’t able to grab his first career win, Larson was able to string together another great run for himself and his No. 42 crew and managed to further solidify his chances of winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year title – a title that would be the Ganassi organization’s first since 2007.

“I think it’s been a good rookie year for me,” Larson said in his post-race press conference. “I feel like I’ve definitely gotten better throughout the year and been close to a couple wins. Aside from missing the Chase, I think it’s been about as good a rookie year as you can get without winning a race.

Yeah, it’s nice beating Austin [Dillon, second-place in the rookie standings.] He was in front of me there and was probably going to beat me unless we got a yellow, and we did. I definitely want to get up on the wheel and beat him. Yeah, it’s been a really good rookie year battle with Austin and the rest of them, and glad I’ve been the guy to kind of stand out a little bit in it.”

Larson has pointed to the mile-and-a-halves as the tracks where he has felt that he will grab his first career win at, however, if he is able to run as solidly as he did at Talladega earlier this year on Sunday – he could grab his first win in this week’s 188-lapper.

The Ganassi organization have shown in the past that they’ve been able to perform well at restrictor plate tracks with three points wins coming at Daytona and Talladega with McMurray since 2010.

They also have some strong powerplants under the hood with their engines supplied by Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick-powered cars have won four of the seven points races held at the restrictor plate tracks since the introduction of the sixth generation Sprint Cup car in 2013.

With strong equipment and with some internal pressure on their shoulders, the Ganassi duo are looking like a threat not just at Talladega, but at each of the five remaining races left this season.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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