(Photos: Getty Images)
Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the Top 20 drivers going into the 2009 season. The order was determined by a survey, which asked six NASCAR journalists – Ricky Craven, Jay Busbee and Jay Hart (Yahoo! Sports); Jenna Fryer (Associated Press); David Poole (Charlotte Observer); and Nate Ryan (USA Today) – to predict the final standings for the 2009 season. The countdown will conclude on Feb. 6 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.
2008 finish: 16th
2009 Outlook: Did anyone have a more Jekyll and Hyde 2008 than Jamie McMurray?
It took him 14 races to record his second top-10 of the season, then he rattled off four top-fives in the final six races of 2008.
McMurray still may lose his seat following the 2009 campaign, when Jack Roush must decide which one of his five drivers to cut in order to comply with NASCAR's four-car cap, but that decision isn't the slam dunk it once was.
McMurray has found the secret to success on the 1.5-mile tracks, which is huge considering intermediate tracks make up nearly half the Sprint Cup schedule. Though he didn't find his way to victory lane, he became a popular pick, and not just as a wildcard.
There is no question when it comes to equipment. Roush Fenway Racing will provide McMurray with the necessary tools to compete. So if he can build on his late-season success, McMurray has a very realistic shot at making the Chase.
If he does and teammate David Ragan doesn't, Roush's decision will be made that much tougher.
Whichever way it goes, there will be an unspoken season-long battle between the two teammates who, in all likelihood, are driving to keep a seat in one of NASCAR's best teams.
What you need to know: McMurray will be reunited with former crew chief Donnie Wingo this season. The two worked together when McMurray was with Chip Ganassi Racing. As a team, they never finished worse than 13th in the standings.