Is 2010 Indy winner McMurray that far off his career norm?

Last year was a career year for Jamie McMurray. The talk this year seems to chuck his 2011 year as a disappointment but maybe it’s the gravitation of averages pulling McMurray back down.

Jamie McMurray won an improbable Daytona 500 last year and then proceeded to run 17th, 34th and 29th in the following three races before scoring an 8th place run at Bristol. He then sunk back to the bottom of the pack before a second place run at Talladega. Despite a 2nd at Darlington and a 5th at Chicago he was ranked 18th in the point standings entering Indianapolis last year.

Following his win he moved up to 16th in the standings, another win at Charlotte moved him to 3 wins on the year but he ultimately finished 14th in the points. McMurray never moved higher then 13th in the standings at any point following the second race of last year.

This year has been rougher. Last year McMurray scored a lead lap finish in 24 of the 36 races, this year he’s managed just 8 in the first19 races. The next race he fails to finish on the lead lap will be as many as he failed all of last year. He’s scored just 2 top-10’s this year and is well off his career high of 346 laps led last year.

McMurray is a distant 29th in the point standings and even a win at Indianapolis would do little to increase his chances of the 2011 chase.

Funny considering the format of the Chase was changed largely because McMurray failed to make it despite two wins.

In McMurray’s 8 full years at the Cup level he has finished higher then 20th in the standings just 4 times. His best finish in the standings was a 11th place run in 2004. Even in last years career run McMurray managed just 12 top-10’s

In total of the 13 drivers who ranked higher then him last year in the standings only one, Mark Martin, had fewer then 12 top-10’s. Fittingly the three drivers directly below him in the points also notched more then 12 top-10’s.

A large part of McMurray’s success in NASCAR has been his brillance on the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. With little coming in the forms of good runs at those tracks it’s not surprising to see McMurray located firmly at the bottom of the pack.

It’s not just about winning races. It’s about stacking top-5’s and salvaging top-10’s when you don’t have it. If you want to know who is to beat simply look at the top-10s recorded of everyone from the top to the bottom of the points. Unsurprisingly Carl Edwards, the point leader, has the most at 13. From there it’s almost an eerie numerical order down the list.

Jamie McMurray isn’t having a down 2011. He simply over performed last year so much that any run he had this year would seem like a free fall.