Entering 2011, Jamie McMurray was seemingly on the cusp of moving up a tier.
In his first season with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, McMurray won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 and finished second in the Coca-Cola 600. However, he missed the Chase. Despite two wins prior to the Chase, McMurray was 14th in the standings.
His season was so successful that when NASCAR added the two wild cards to the Chase for the two drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins, some took to calling it the McMurray Rule. Because, after all, if the wild card was around in 2010, McMurray would have made the Chase.
Going into 2011, McMurray was NASCAR's embodiment of Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory."
Now, well, McMurray and 2011 are simply caught up in a bad romance and the EGR driver has come down to earth. After blowing an engine in Saturday's Quaker State 400, McMurray is a disappointing 28th in the standings. Three DNFs haven't helped — Saturday's engine failure was McMurray's second of the season — but when he's had a car that's made it to the finish line, McMurray hasn't had the speed that he had last year. He's finished on the lead lap just eight times.
McMurray did still have his share of bad luck last year, finishing 30th or worse six times. But he won three times. At the halfway point of the 2011 campaign, he's finished in the top 10 only twice and he's yet to crack the top five.
At this point, the 2011 Chase is an afterthought. He's 141 points outside of the top 10 and 83 outside the top 20. Even taking advantage of the so-called McMurray rule seems farfetched at this point.
Did anyone see that coming?