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Inside Motorsports: Decision time for McMurray

- jutter@charlotteobsberver.com
Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2009

MY TWO CENTS Roush Fenway Racing has made its decision, now Jamie McMurray must make his.

Less than a week after announcing Matt Kenseth's sponsor had decided not to return in 2010, Roush officials said Tuesday that Crown Royal, McMurray's sponsor this season, would move to Kenseth's No. 17 team next year.

That means Roush - which is required to move from five teams to four next season - will field cars for Kenseth, Greg Biffle, David Ragan and Carl Edwards in 2010.

McMurray, now officially, is without a ride at Roush, although team president Geoff Smith says he hopes to transfer McMurray's No. 26 team intact to Yates Racing next season.

Is that really the best move for McMurray?

He left Chip Ganassi Racing in a much-publicized move to Roush in 2006, but since arriving his tenure has been less than stellar. He's won one race with the No. 26 - the 2007 July race at Daytona - and has never finished better than 16th in points. He is currently 20th.

A move to Yates - which gets car chassis, technical support and the same engines as Roush teams - wouldn't really change the dynamic for McMurray. Granted, it's not the best time to be looking for new rides in NASCAR right now, but for whatever reason it's clear the Roush-McMurray pairing never blossomed.

In three full seasons with Ganassi, McMurray didn't win a race (he won as a fill-in for Sterling Marlin in 2002), but he never finished worse than 13th in points. He was a lot closer to competing for a championship with Ganassi than has ever been at Roush.

Just by chance, there is an opening at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing next season, the No. 1 Chevrolet being vacated by Martin Truex Jr.

Is it out of realm of possibility for McMurray to return to the team where his Cup career started? Sponsors would have to be located, of course, and contract negotiations held.

But in the end, McMurray's best hope of moving his Sprint Cup career forward may be looking back.

NOTES

Most popular voting passes 1 million More than 1 million votes have already been cast for this season's NASCAR Most Popular Driver award presented by the National Motorsports Press Association.

Under the new format, fans have just seven more weeks to vote their preferred drivers into the field of Top-10 finalists. The 10 drivers currently are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.

Fans can vote at www.chexmostpopulardriver.com. The field of 44 drivers will be cut to 10 finalists following the Richmond race on Sept. 13. Then, the vote count will reset to zero and fans will have 10 race weeks to cast their votes to determine the winner. Voting will conclude Nov. 23.

Indy race fairs well in ratings ESPN's live coverage of the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned a final household rating of 4.8, making it the highest-rated Sprint Cup race on cable this season. And the average viewership of 6,487,450 made it the second most-viewed Cup race ever on ESPN.

The rating was a six percent drop from last year's 5.1 on ESPN.

Help select Hall inductees Race fans can now log on www.nascar.com/hall and cast votes for up to five NASCAR legends to be inducted as part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame's inaugural class next May.

The fan vote will collectively represent one of the 51 ballots on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Committee. Fans must register to vote and can only fill out a Hall of Fame ballot one time.

NEXT RACE

Pennsylvania 500 Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa. When: 1 p.m. Sunday. TV: ESPN Radio: Motor Racing Network Last year's winner: Carl Edwards

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