Commentary

Can McMurray get on a (lobster) roll?

Updated: July 12, 2013, 12:52 AM ET
By Jack McCluskey | Special to ESPNBoston.com

After more than two and a half seasons without a win, Jamie McMurray is so hungry for a win that if he gets one Sunday in Loudon, N.H., he just might eat the trophy.

Crew chief Kevin Manion doesn't need to worry about putting a dentist on speed dial for McMurray, though. This trophy is edible.

The good folks at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have added some local flavor to their Sprint Cup races in recent years, handing a gigantic, live lobster to the race winner in Victory Lane.

[+] EnlargeJamie McMurray
Kevin Liles/USA TODAY Sports"I think if we just keep doing exactly what we've been doing that a win will come," Jamie McMurray said.

"I don't know what you're supposed to do with that lobster," McMurray said by phone Thursday, with a laugh. "I'm not real sure. I don't know if that's just a photo op or if you get to keep that thing."

It's not just a photo op. Since 2008, NHMS executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens has arranged for a massive decapod to be presented to the winner immediately after the race, and after the postrace interviews end the crustacean is cooked, flash-frozen and shipped to the victorious crew chief.

The prize lobster for Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 (1 p.m., TNT) weighs in at 20 pounds, according to NHMS.

But to McMurray, more important than experiencing a taste of New England would be the Chase points and the notch in the wild-card standings a win would represent.

"I feel like our cars are as good as they've been in years," the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver said. "Even in '10 when we won all the big races, I think they're probably better now. I feel really good about everything we've got going on."

It's been a while since McMurray won those big races, taking the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Bank of America 500 in 2010. The last of those wins came in October in Charlotte.

McMurray hasn't won a Cup race since. So what will it take to get another checkered flag in NASCAR's top series?

"I think if we just keep doing exactly what we've been doing that a win will come," he said. "In order to win you have to have the perfect race. I feel like if we have one of those then we'll be a contender to win."

A perfect performance in New Hampshire starts in qualifying.

"Loudon is a really tough track to pass on so qualifying is critical and so is having a good pit strategy," McMurray said. "It's a flat racetrack and it just seems like the flatter the track in the Cup cars the harder it is to pass. And Loudon is about as flat as it gets."

NHMS, a 1.058-mile asphalt-and-granite track, has 1-degree banking in the straightaways and 2- to 7-degree progressive banking in all four turns.

McMurray said his team used to go to Milwaukee to test for New Hampshire, believing that could give them a leg up when the Cup came to the Northeast. But, truth be told, he's not sure it ever really translated.

Coming off consecutive top-10 finishes in the races at Kentucky (second) and Daytona (seventh), the Joplin, Mo., native is hoping his momentum continues to build as the regular season winds down. Including Sunday, there are eight races left before the points reset and the top 10 begin the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"I think we've run well enough all year long to be one of the top 10 guys, but we've had some really odd things happen," McMurray said. "Flat tires, parts falling off and going through our radiator. It seemed like each week we'd be running well and then something would happen.

"I think our cars all season long have been really good."

McMurray is 17th in the Cup standings heading into the weekend, just 24 points behind 10th-place Tony Stewart. But because Stewart, No. 11 Martin Truex Jr. and No. 12 Kasey Kahne all have a win, McMurray has more than just points to make up for if he wants to make the Chase.

Last season, Kahne won the July race at NHMS and Denny Hamlin won the Chase race in September.

The 2013 Chase begins Sept. 15 at Chicago, with the second NHMS race the next weekend, on Sept. 22.

McMurray, like many of the would-be Chasers in the field at Loudon, hopes Sunday is the first step toward ensuring he's back for the second New Hampshire race with something on the line.

"It would be awesome to be able to win here," he said. "A win anywhere would be vital right now, not only for the points but for the wild card if you didn't make it to the top 10. Absolutely, it'd be great."

And not just for the post-race date with the Loudon lobster.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

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