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500 win earns elite status

February 16, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

DAYTONA BEACH (AP) - Chip Ganassi squirmed a bit, shifted the microphone he was holding in his hands, then gazed blankly at the floor.

Jamie McMurray had just been asked to describe his NASCAR team owner - the man who has taken two separate chances on McMurray - and Ganassi was clearly uncomfortable with the praise he was about to receive.

"He's not wanting me to compliment him right now," McMurray said.

Any kind words from McMurray had been earned.

Ganassi gave McMurray his first break when the little-known driver was looking for a shot at NASCAR's top level. Then he had his ego bruised three years later when McMurray fled for a perceived better opportunity at Roush-Fenway Racing.

Ganassi didn't let the hurt feelings fester, though, and agreed to give McMurray another shot last fall when the driver found himself out of work.

It all paid off Sunday night with a thrilling Daytona 500 victory, the biggest NASCAR win for both the driver and owner.

It was evident how grateful McMurray was from his tearful Victory Lane celebration, when he effusively thanked Ganassi, co-owner Felix Sabates, and sponsor Bass Pro Shops for giving him a second chance.

McMurray's win moved Ganassi into elite company, joining Roger Penske as the only owners to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona sports car race.



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