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A rough ride this season, and Jamie McMurray's Take:

  Winning Daytona, 2010 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   When it comes to the highs and lows of this sport, Jamie McMurray has mapped it all too well.
   And at the moment he's riding the wrong end of the train.

   Remember Jamie McMurray?
   Last year at this time he was on top of the NASCAR world.
   Winning the Daytona 500…
   Winning the Talladega 500…
   and on his way to winning the Brickyard 400.
   Best season of his career, though he didn't make the playoffs.
   This season?
   Not so good.
   At Daytona in February he finished 18th. He did win the pole at Martinsville in April, finishing 7th. But since then it's been downhill: since mid-May his run of finishes has been less than memorable – 20th, 37th, 29th, 33rd, 19th, 15th, 22nd, 36th, and most recently, at Loudon, N.H., 31st.
   Doesn't look like Jamie McMurray will make the playoff cut in September.
   And teammate Juan Pablo Montoya hasn't fared much better lately….perhaps one reason team owner Chip Ganassi has changed crew chiefs, putting veteran Brian Pattie on the sidelines, and hoping that Jim Pohlman can rally that team  -- 17th in the standings and fading – to make the championship chase, though that's a long shot.
   Though teammates, McMurray and Montoya each handles the frustration in different ways.
   One good thing for the two here is that both men run well at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


Jamie McMurray: the playoffs seem out of the picture, but what can he salvage in the second half of the season? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   So how does the defending Brickyard winner analyze things?
   "It's been really frustrating to have such a good season last year and struggle so much this year," McMurray says.
   "Our performance has been better, I feel, the last 10 races. But it's the same thing -- we're on our third engine failure of the year….we broke a transmission…
   "If we do have a race that things start going our way, then you have a flat tire. We've had six or eight flat tires this year.
   "Ran out of gas at Loudon….
    "It just seems like if it could go wrong, it has."
    So he comes into Sunday's 400 with hope "not necessarily that we get to have good luck, but just no more bad luck."
    And from here?
    He's 28th in points, and after all, this race is such a unique creature that it's hard to translate good-or-bad here into what the rest of the summer might look like on the stock car trail.
    "Indy is one of those tracks that, if you like the track, the same guys always run well," McMurray says.
    "I don't know you'll learn a lot this weekend about the remainder of the season. But we should run well this weekend, because Montoya and I really like the place."

   So the playoffs aren't even on his radar scope. First he'd have to break back into the top-20, and then he'd have to win a race or two. Can he do that over the next seven weeks?
    "Even winning one race (between now and Richmond) I don't think you'd get the wild card, because of the points you'd have to make up," McMurray concedes.
   "Maybe if you win a couple, you would have a shot….
   "But honestly our goal right now is just to get our team back where it was at this time last year, and hopefully be more consistent.
    "A lot of it is not our doing -- You can't help flat tires, three blown engines."
    So he and crew chief Kevin 'Bono' Manion are already looking ahead. Far ahead: "It's about working on next year already."
   Still it's been such a topsy-turvy year, with 13 different winners in the 19 events, and some rather improbable finishes to boot.
   "If you were running poorly and crashing, it would be one thing," McMurray considers.
    "But blown engines and flat tires are out of your control.
   "You have to keep your head up and not focus on all the negative stuff.
    "It's not really anyone's doing; it's just the cards we've been dealt."


    Jamie McMurray and wife Christy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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