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Jamie McMurray has another solid race....but elsewhere in the NASCAR garage things aren't as bright

   Jamie McMurray (1) leads the pack to the starting line for the Southern 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern

    Jamie McMurray keeps showing this season he's no fluke...and that car owner Chip Ganassi has indeed turned things around.
    The Daytona 500 winner had another great night here in Saturday's Southern 500, and so did teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. McMurray finished second to Denny Hamlin, Montoya finished fifth.
    And both McMurray and Montoya are clearly enjoying the surge.
    "Even like last week at Richmond, we were fastest in one of the practices...like our cars have been really fast this year, we just haven't been able to get the finishes out of it," McMurray says.
    "Early on here, we led some laps, ran top-five. Then towards the end we got pushed back because of the way the pit strategy worked out. And then what I'm thinking is 'even if you have to run 10th, don't put yourself in a bad position.'"
    After this place has been Crash City.
    "Our season has actually been really good," McMurray went on. "Winning the 500. Almost winning at Talladega. Running second again here.
    "We've been able to put ourselves in position to win three races this year. I don't know that in my career I've been able to do that, much less in the first eight or 10 races.
      "I probably haven't done a good enough job at the races where our car wasn't good enough. Haven't had a 'Matt Kenseth night,' where you have a 20th-place car and you can finish 10th with it.
    "But all in all, it's impressive the cars they're able to build at Earnhardt-Ganassi.
     "When I left there in 2005 (to move to another team), you leave to go to a bigger team and you think everything is going to be better."
     But McMurray's time with Jack Roush wasn't that impressive. So now he's back with Ganassi. "It's been amazing coming back and seeing just the results, how much a difference everything has been for me," McMurray said.
    "We've had fast cars all year long. We had a top-five car at Vegas; that's where I got into the wall and ended up crashing us both (Montoya was hot).
    "There have been a few races we haven't been able to capitalize on how good a car we had. But I've been just really impressed with the caliber of cars they've been able to give us.
     "When I was at Roush, they had what I thought was a fairly complex simulation program. It's very technical.
    "Honestly, I was worried coming over here. We have something similar to that at Ganassi, but it's different the way we get our setups and what we do.
     "But I've just been very impressed with how good we can unload at the tracks each weekend. I heard Kurt (Busch, who finished third) saying he wishes the front ends of their cars would turn better. I haven't complained about that at all this year.
     "It's just amazing the cars they give Juan and me. It's just really up to us to put those finishes together."
    This race was a lot about track position. "It didn't surprise me at all when I got back in traffic that it was hard to pass," McMurray said. "We saw that all night long. And even last year here the guys that were out front could get away.
     "The biggest thing when you're up front is the first two corners -- you can put five seconds on the other guys. It's just amazing coming off turn two how far ahead you can be in one corner.
     "It's still a really fun track to race on...very unique. They did a fine job with the tire...though it would be nice, I think all of the drivers would tell you, if the tire had a little more fall-off.
    "It would be really nice when the caution comes out if you had to put four tires on. It's frustrating to run in the front for the majority of the race and then the way the pit strategies work out, to be in the back and not be able to get back to the front."

    Meanwhile, it was another disappointing night over in the Ford camp, continuing the mystery.
    Matt Kenseth was the best finisher, 13th, just ahead of teammates David Ragan and Carl Edwards. Fourth teammate Greg Biffle brushed the wall early and struggled in 22nd.
    "It was just really tight -- chattering the front tires tire," Biffle said. "I was trying to arc it in (the corners), and trying to get it to turn across the center...and when I arced it in once, it just got away from me.  I got loose-in and got up into the fence. 
     "It looked like it collected a few guys behind me, and that was unfortunate. But I just couldn't get the car to turn all night."
    That wasn't Biffle's only problem. An alternator failed 60 miles in. "We didn't have any brake cooling or gear cooling or anything," Biffle said. "It was a rough night not to have any fans."
    Kenseth said the problem was both speed and handling:  "We just weren't very fast, and we didn't handle very well as a group.
    "Even when we got it balanced we just don't have speed, and I don't really know why. 
    "It was just a struggle.  I'm actually super-happy to come home 13th.  That was probably way better than we should have finished, because I drove it in
the fence a couple of times just overdriving.
    "The last month has been really hard, for whatever reason.  We show up at the track, and we're slower than we were a couple months before.
     "It's just been a battle lately, a lot harder than the first two months of the season.
     "We've got to figure out how to get our cars running a little faster."


The way Jamie Mac and JPM are

The way Jamie Mac and JPM are playing nice....They might just make the Chase. And both are good at the road course game as well. Since Darlington "mirrors" Dover (a little) since Rockingham is gone. I expect the both of them to fare well in that race too.

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