BRISTOL, Tenn. - Jamie McMurray will start this afternoon's Food City 500 as the 19th-ranked driver in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series standings. And since the top 10 drivers after 26 races move into the "Chase for the Championship," McMurray is starting to look for a loophole into the championship race.
The sanctioning body said it would increase the number of eligible drivers for the championship to anyone within 400 points of the series leader. That's why McMurray was counting points, not positions, before the race.
He's currently 201 points behind Matt Kenseth, and that deficit is certain to grow once NASCAR levies a penalty against the team for bringing an illegal car to the Bristol Motor Speedway. His Dodge flunked inspection so badly on Friday, the sanctioning body confiscated the car and moved it back to its research and development center before today's main event (1 p.m., FOX-Ch. 54).
At issue was the trunk area. The team apparently built his Dodge with the trunk area skewed right of center. That allows more air to hit the rear spoiler and to create more downforce on the rear wheels.
"We're running well enough, we just can't seem to buy a break. If we can get down to the last 10 races, we've got a team that's most capable of winning the championship. I really feel like we'll be in the top 10 when it's all said and done," McMurray said.
NASCAR found the same problem with one of Tony Stewart's cars a year ago at Texas. While he wasn't fined or docked any points in the championship, NASCAR issued a warning to everyone in the garage area not to try it again.
The last thing any driver needs at Bristol is the haunting thought of losing points before the race even starts.
Bristol is traditionally tough on both cars and drivers since it's only half-mile short track with 36-degree banking. Kyle Petty once said driving a lap around Bristol is like flying a jet fighter inside a gymnasium.
Ryan Newman won the pole for today's race with a qualifying lap of 128.314 mph.