McMurray hoping team can build on momentum

Updated: May 6, 2006, 3:52 PM ET
By Rupen Fofaria | Special to ESPN.com

Still stuck well outside the top 10, Jamie McMurray isn't ready to signal a revival of his NASCAR success just yet.

Bob Osborne
Crew chief Bob Osborne (left) and driver Jamie McMurray are off to a strong start as a team after a switch early in the season.

But the driver of the No. 26 Ford is headed in the right direction, having jumped four spots to 17th in the standings the past two races thanks to a couple of top-15 finishes.

What has changed?

After McMurray's rocky start in his inaugural season with Roush Racing, team owner Jack Roush pulled a crew chief shuffle in search of a spark. Bob Osborne, who guided Carl Edwards to a third-place finish last year, moved over to McMurray's team and already has begun to pay dividends. McMurray's 14th-place finish at Phoenix and fifth-place finish at Talladega are his first back-to-back top-15 finishes of the year. Before that, he hadn't even put together back-to-back top-20s.

"We posted our first top-five finish of the season last weekend at Talladega and were able lead some laps and contend for the win," McMurray said. "Bob and I are working well together, and the crew really did a great job on pit road. We'll be looking to build on our strong day in Talladega heading into the weekend."

This weekend, they head to Richmond International Raceway, where McMurray has posted only two top-10s in his career. He has failed to finish twice at this track. Still, Osborne likes the way things are going early in his relationship with McMurray, and he believes the crew will have a victory-worthy car ready for Saturday night.

"We're bringing a good car with us to Richmond this weekend," Osborne said. "I know it won Phoenix last year and Loudon the year before. We took it to Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and were able to finish 14th with it. We all tested in Richmond not too long ago, and although I wasn't working with Jamie and the No. 26 team at that time, I know that they had a good test.

"We have some good momentum going right now, and we look to carry it into Richmond."

When Roush announced his crew chief changes, it wasn't immediately clear whether it was because Edwards and Osborne had a disturbance in the chemistry that helped the duo to last year's stellar finish. This year, the No. 99 team has struggled. While Osborne was still with the team, it ranked 22nd in the standings.

But Edwards was quick to dispel any thought that the shake-up was prompted by his team.

"To be extremely clear, this change has nothing to do with Bob's performance or our team's performance," Edwards said shortly after the swap was made. "It has to do with getting Jamie going. That's all this is. That's something I wanted to make real clear because Bob is doing an unbelievable job.

"The things that have happened this year, just look at the facts. Me running into Kyle Petty has nothing to with Bob. Me wrecking at Texas doesn't, and the deal on pit road wasn't Bob's fault, either. This is a compliment to Bob, if anything."

In fact, Edwards was unhappy at first about losing his crew chief.

"Bob is an unbelievable guy," he said. "I know it sounds kind of cliché, but he's not just a crew chief, he's a good friend. He's not just a good crew chief, he's great."

With things starting to get turned around with the 26, Osborne will have a chance to prove how great he is by finishing the job and getting McMurray into the Chase. Given the quickness with which McMurray has gotten comfortable with Osborne, McMurray is hopeful.

"Bob has been a pleasure to work with so far," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have some good things to come."

Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at rfofaria@yahoo.com.