With six races left before the field is set for NASCAR's Chase for the Championship, it has come down to simple math for Jamie McMurray and his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team.
"It's just going to be five top-fives," said McMurray's crew chief, Kevin "Bono" Manion, after his driver's victory in last week's Brickyard 400. "We picked up another 30 points. Thirty times five is 150. We're 151 out. It's going to take some good, strong runs. That's all I got to say."
Manion's math leaves McMurray one point short going into the final race of the Sprint Cup regular season, Sept. 11 at Richmond, Va. If McMurray can pick up 30 points a week beginning with Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, he'll have a solid shot at his first Chase.
But McMurray, 34, must get more consistent in a hurry. He has two mega-wins — the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 — and three second-place finishes. But he also has six finishes 30th or worse.
And more than points separate him from the top 12. He stands 16th, meaning he must jump over four pretty stout drivers.
There is time, but he must do more of what he did at Speedweeks and Indy and less of what he did at Pocono in June and Daytona in July — he was 39th and 36th, respectively, in those races.
And Pocono has not been good for McMurray. He has started 15 races at the flat, 2.5-mile triangle and has no top fives and three laps led. His average finish is 21.7.
The four drivers between McMurray and the Chase — 12th-place Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman — have better average finishes and a significant number of laps led at Pocono.
McMurray has a different kind of way to look at his numbers, this week and overall — he doesn't look at them.
"Well, I view the Chase differently, I think," he said after Indy. "Every time I pay attention to points, we run 30th. I don't even really care where we're at in points. I think you show up every week, do your job. If you make the Chase, that's wonderful."
And he's confident in his No. 1 car this weekend.
"We've had really fast race cars this year, (Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines) has given us some great Chevrolet horsepower and (teammate) Juan (Montoya) had a good finish (second) at Pocono last season," McMurray said. "So, I'm really looking forward to seeing what we'll be able to accomplish this weekend."
Unless he accomplishes plenty, the winner of the season's two most famed races will miss the Chase. Oh, well, McMurray said.
"Getting to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 means more to me this year than making the Chase," he said. "This year or in 10 years, the guy that won that race one time everybody will talk about. The guy that finished third in the points, nobody cares. I would really like to be in the Chase, but I have no focus on that at all. I know Bono doesn't want to hear that, but I don't."