The last ten weeks of the NASCAR season are supposed to be all about the Chase for the Championship, but no one told that to Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray. Non-chasers, who found a way to crash the party and end up in victory lane- during the chase.
“You know, the perception is, and rightfully so, that the guys in the Chase are the cream of the crop, and that's how obviously the would make it in the Chase, and they should win races and probably sweep the Chase,” said Keselowski after his win two weeks ago at Charlotte. “But this is a very good team. But along the way, all season long we've had the speed. We've had what we need to be a championship team. We just haven't put them all together. All the pieces haven't come together on the nights that count, and they for the most part did tonight.”
As the defending champ, who missed the chase, Keselowski’s win might not be much of a surprise. But for McMurray, a team that has at time struggled, his getting to victory lane during the chase, is a little more unexpected.
“Our cars have definitely been better this year,” said McMurray. “But getting to victory lane, it really doesn't matter what track, it definitely is a momentum builder for our whole organization.”
Winning for any organization is big. Winning in the chase for a non-chaser is even bigger, because they get some of those eyes on their team, they wouldn’t otherwise get during the chase. And sponsors love that. Plus, it helps build momentum for next season.
“I'm excited about next year, but I'm more excited about the next five races because we have our own Chase,” said Felix Sabates, who co-owns McMurray’s car. “The guy that finishes first out of the Chase gets a huge bonus, and that could help a lot of the expenses we had this year if Jamie finishes the first guy out of the Chase.”
That being said, most drivers would still rather be in the chase, but if you can’t being a chase crasher is the next best thing.
“I think the fact that we weren't in the Chase, I don't think had anything to do with the speed in our race cars and the capability of anybody on the team,” said Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief. “I think we've shown that over the last year-and-a-half that we were capable of winning a championship and doing the things that it takes to do that. Things didn't go our way and we didn't make the Chase, but that didn't mean we didn't have the speed. To be able to win a race during the Chase I don't think should be a big surprise.”