In 1999, McMurray made five starts in the Craftsman Truck Series. In 2000, he ran 16 Truck races and posted one top-five and four top-ten finishes. During 2001 and 2002, he competed full-time in the Busch Series; driving the No. 27 Williams Travel Centers Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Brewco Motorsports. The latter year was better for McMurray, as he won two races and finished sixth in the overall points standings.
Before the fall race at Richmond in 2002, Chip Ganassi announced McMurray would become the driver of a Texaco-Havoline Dodge in 2003. Ganassi planned to have McMurray drive the No. 42 Dodge for seven races in 2002.
McMurray's entry into Cup racing did not go as planned. McMurray was scheduled to drive a limited schedule in a No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge in 2002, in preparation for a full-time 2003 rookie of the year campaign in the No. 42 with new sponsor Texaco/Havoline. However, he was instead tapped as interim replacement for injured Ganassi Cup driver Sterling Marlin, who fractured a vertebra in a crash at Kansas Speedway. Thus, McMurray made his Cup debut in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge at Talladega. One week later, at Charlotte, in just his second career NASCAR Winston Cup and first non-restrictor plate start, McMurray outraced the Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiacs of Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart to win the UAW-GM Quality 500. McMurray had been consistent the entire night, and led 96 of the final 100 laps to score the win. It is considered one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history. This win set a modern era record for fewest starts before a win (which has since been recently tied by Trevor Bayne in the 2011 Daytona 500, although a difference is that Bayne's win was on a restrictor plate track where upsets are frequent due to the plates equalizing the cars, while Charlotte, where McMurray won, is a track that requires more driver skill), and it was also the first time a driver won in their first start at a 1.5-mile track; the most common type of track used in the sport. McMurray drove for six of the remaining seven races, except for the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville, with Mike Bliss driving as scheduled in the No. 40.
In 2003, McMurray joined the Cup Series full-time. He won Rookie of the Year honors by 37 points over Greg Biffle. McMurray had five Top 5 finishes for the year and finished 13th overall. He began competing part-time in the Busch Series.
In 2004, McMurray and his team were penalized 25 points after the Food City 500 for an incorrect "x-measurement," a method of comparing the center of the roof with the center of the chassis, which proved costly when later in the year, McMurray missed the Chase for the Cup by 15 points. The same weekend of the penalty, McMurray was fined $15,000 by NASCAR for intentionally causing a wreck after the race was over.
He had 23 Top 10s during the season, including 12 in the last 14 races, and finished eleventh in the points standings, which earned him a $1 million bonus. In the same year, he won a Truck Series race; joining 20 other drivers that have won a race in all three of NASCAR's top touring series.
In 2005 McMurray scored four top fives and ten top tens and finished 13th in points. McMurray came in tenth in points with a one-point cushion over Ryan Newman in the final race before the chase at Richmond International Raceway. McMurray was wrecked by Tony Raines later in the race ending his chase hopes.
McMurray left the No. 42 team after the 2005 season to drive for Roush Racing. Owner Chip Ganassi was initially adamant that McMurray would be held to his contract, but on November 7, 2005, McMurray was released when Ganassi and partner Felix Sabates learned that McMurray signed a contract with Roush already before the season ended. McMurray was originally to go to the No. 6 Ford in 2006, but since Mark Martin announced he would race for another year, McMurray instead took over for Kurt Busch in the No. 97 Crown Royal/IRWIN Tools Ford (which was then renumbered No. 26).
In April 2006, Jack Roush moved Jimmy Fennig from crew chief of the No. 26 Ford to head Roush's Busch operations. Bob Osbourne, who had been crew chief for Carl Edwards, moved to head the crew for McMurray. 2006 was a hard season for McMurray. McMurray's best finish of the 2006 season came at Dover International Speedway, where he finished second after leading the most laps. McMurray would record three top fives, seven top tens and finish a disappointing 25th in points.
McMurray began the 2007 season with crew chief Larry Carter. On June 22, 2007, he won his third career Cup pole, for the Toyota Save/Mart 350. On lap 1, he was passed by Robby Gordon for the lead but he spent the first quarter of the race holding off Boris Said and Jeff Burton for second place. When Robby Gordon pitted after 34 laps, McMurray traded the lead repeatedly. With about 45 laps left, McMurray took the lead and dominated the final laps, but with 7 to go Cup rookie and his future teammate Juan Pablo Montoya passed him and held him off until McMurray eventually ran out of gas with 2 to go and resulted 37th. On July 7 at the Pepsi 400, McMurray led a few laps in the first stages. However, on lap 30, McMurray was then black-flagged by NASCAR for slipping out of bounds. He then spent the rest of the race charging back through the field eventually getting back to the front on lap 155. McMurray then led the final stages but battled Kyle Busch for five laps. On the last lap, Busch was the leader next to McMurray and charged to the finish, but at the last second, McMurray charged one last time and barely beat Busch to win the Pepsi 400 for his second career Cup win. The margin was 0.005 of a second, and the finish resembled the Daytona 500 of the year's finish when Kevin Harvick beat Mark Martin at the last second of the race that year. The photo finish was the closest in Daytona International Speedway history and tied for the second closest finish (1993 DieHard 500) since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993. McMurray finished the year 17th in the point standings.
In the beginning of the 2008 season, McMurray encountered a string of poor finishes that relegated him to 36th in points and thus not guaranteed a spot when NASCAR reached the spring Martinsville race. When the current points went into effect to determine those who were locked in the race, McMurray was required to qualify for the race based on his time around the track. He qualified 5th, locking himself into the field as the fastest of the teams not locked into the race. He earned an 8th-place finish in the race, securing himself a spot in the Top 35 in points and thus a guaranteed starting position for the next race. Throughout the remainder of the season, he steadily climbed in the standings and reached the Top 20 in points. On October 11, 2008, McMurray rallied to finish 5th in the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It was his first Top 5 finish since his victory at Daytona in July of the previous year. McMurray finished 16th in the standings.
McMurray reunited with former crew chief Donnie Wingo in 2009. Crew chief Larry Carter moved to Yates Racing to be crew chief for Paul Menard. McMurray started the 2009 season by dominating the final stages of the Budweiser Shootout, but finished second when he lost the lead to Kevin Harvick on the last lap. McMurray had an excellent Speedweeks, finishing 9th in his Gatorade Duel. In the Daytona 500, McMurray ran up front and was a contender, but was involved in the big one, and his teammate Matt Kenseth won the race. Later in the year, Roush Fenway Racing informed McMurray he would be allowed to leave the team as they needed to cut their teams down to the NASCAR-mandated four. On November 1, 2009, McMurray won the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega after leading over 20 laps and passing David Stremme with 8 laps to go. He then survived a green-white checkered finish to earn his second restrictor-plate win. Roush released him and the No. 26 team at the end of the season due to NASCAR's four team limit and the expiration of Roush Fenway Racing's exemption that allowed a 5th team. McMurray decided to ask former boss Chip Ganassi for another chance following his disappointing era on Roush-Fenway Racing and Ganassi granted him a contract to let him drive for his merged team with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
In 2010, McMurray moved over to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the No. 1 car, replacing Martin Truex Jr. McMurray reunited with Chip Ganassi when he participated in the 2010 24 Hours of Daytona; it was the first time he has been with Ganassi since 2005. On February 14, in just his first start for Ganassi since 2005, McMurray won the Daytona 500. He led for only two laps, the least in Daytona 500 history by passing Kevin Harvick with 2 to go. McMurray cried in victory lane and thanked Ganassi and his new sponsors for giving him another chance. McMurray accidentally crashed into new teammate and former rival Juan Pablo Montoya at Las Vegas. McMurray apologized but Montoya said after the race that he felt like McMurray wasn't helping the team much although later they made up. McMurray almost won the Aaron's 499 that spring, but Kevin Harvick beat him in a .011-second drag race to the finish line. McMurray led 27 laps. It was speculated by McMurray's car owner Felix Sabates that Harvick went below the yellow line when he made the pass but this was denied by NASCAR.
In May, McMurray ended up second to Kurt Busch in the Coca-Cola 600 and had several more top ten finishes before in July, McMurray held off Harvick again to win the Brickyard 400, which made him one of only three drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year, the feat previously having been accomplished by Jimmie Johnson in 2006 and Dale Jarrett in 1996. Chip Ganassi became the first owner to win both races (with McMurray) and the Indianapolis 500 (with Dario Franchitti) in the same year. In September, McMurray held off Kyle Busch to win the Great Clips 300 in the Nationwide Series at Atlanta. Although he did not make the Chase, he did win the Bank of America 500 at the site of his first win — Charlotte Motor Speedway. McMurray finished 14th in the standings with three wins and nine Top 5's.
On January 19, 2011, McMurray signed a multi-year extension with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to continue driving the No. 1 Chevrolet. He won the pole for the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, where he finished 7th. Following the massive tornado that went through McMurray's home city Joplin, Missouri, McMurray listed Joplin as one of his racing sponsors to help his town. He blew his engine during the Coca-Cola 600. In July, McMurray came close to winning the Brickyard 400 by passing Paul Menard with nine laps left but with four laps remaining, Menard took back the lead and while Menard charged to his first Cup victory, McMurray ended up 4th as a good record of July. McMurray congratulated Menard publicly after the race when he was interviewed about his finish. However, McMurray's second season with Earnardt Ganassi Racing was a disappointment compared to his first; he earned just four Top 10's that year, and finished the season 27th in points.
2012 was not much better for McMurray. He started the season with a crash in the Daytona 500. The next week, in Phoenix, McMurray had an accident before blowing an engine; he then posted two straight 7th-place finishes at both Las Vegas and Bristol. He would not post another top ten until the Pocono race in June. McMurray contended to win at Talladega in the fall race, but Harvick spun McMurray in the final laps; thus, McMurray finished the season with only three Top 10s and no victories.
McMurray started his season on a low note, crashing in the Daytona 500 on lap 33, relegating him to a 32nd-place finish, followed by a 22nd-place finish at Phoenix. At Las Vegas, the third race of the year, McMurray improved, with a 13th-place finish. The following week, at Bristol, he scored a 10th-place finish; this was his first Top 10 of the season, despite spinning out in the middle of the race. Then, after a 19th-place finish in Fontana, McMurray finished a season-best 7th place in Martinsville, despite being involved in an early collision with Clint Bowyer. McMurray then had a 16th-place finish at Texas, and took another 7th-place finish at Kansas, bringing him up to three Top 10 and six Top 20 finishes.
McMurray took home first place in the non-points-paying 2013 Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Leading all 40 laps, the Cup win was his first since the 2010 Bank of America 500, which also came at Charlotte. He would go on to finish 8th in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. McMurray would hit a low stretch, with a 19th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 and a 33rd-place finish at Dover. He then had a 13th-place finish at Pocono. At Michigan, McMurray led 21 laps but finished 33rd after a late accident. The following week at Sonoma, McMurray narrowly beat Marcos Ambrose to win his first pole of the season.
McMurray then had two strong runs - a runner-up finish to Matt Kenseth at Kentucky, followed by the Coke Zero 400, where he led 10 laps and finished seventh. He then got right outside the Top 10 with an 11th-place finish at New Hampshire.
In October, McMurray held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to win at Talladega, snapping a 108-race winless streak. This was his seventh career victory and fourth on a restrictor plate track (with wins at Daytona in 2007 and 2010 and Talladega in November 2009).
McMurray had a slow start to the season, finishing 14th at Daytona after a last lap crash, though he posted a Top 10 at Fontana. His performances improved at the All-Star Race. After starting in the Top 10, McMurray controlled 40% of the 90 lap race, passed leader Carl Edwards on the final restart, and held off Kevin Harvick for $1,370,400. He was very emotional about his win and gave credit of the win to his pit crew thanking his new crew chief Keith Rodden.
On lap 165 of the FedEx 400, McMurray drove into a chunk of concrete, causing his car to turn sideways. The resulting pothole, which was 8 in.x 10 in., led to a red flag which lasted 22 minutes and 22 seconds.
On June 21, McMurray won the pole for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 for his first pole of the 2014 season and the tenth of his career. McMurray finished 16th at New Hampshire, after a solid 5th place start.
At the Irwin Tools Night Race, McMurray had a car to beat, led the most laps (148), and had the lead with 67 laps to go, but faded towards the end of the race and finished 8th. McMurray had a good end to the season, grabbing a Top 10 at Homestead Miami. He finished in 18th in the overall standings, seventy-three points behind his teammate Kyle Larson.
McMurray had another crew chief change entering 2015, his second swap in 2 years. His new crew chief is former RCR Engineer Matt McCall. McMurray started the year out poorly with finishes of 27th and 40th at Daytona and Atlanta after being involved in two crashes. He then scored an 11th at Las Vegas. Coming to the fourth race of the season (Phoenix), he contended with Kevin Harvick for the win, but ended in 2nd. He finished 21st at Auto Club. However he experienced a good streak of races, a 10th at Martinsville, a sixth at Texas, a 14th at Bristol, and a fourth at Richmond where it looked like McMurray was one of the only drivers who could challenge winner Kurt Busch. He finished 11th at Talladega. After ten races McMurray was 7th in the standings - the highest he had ever been since the second race of 2010. He had a 44-point cushion over 17th place.
Starting the summer part of the season, McMurray posted a 13th-place finish at Kansas. He posted a 16th at the All-Star race after leading Segment 3. He finished 19th in the Coco Cola 600. McMurray had a strong run afterwards, coming seventh at Dover, Pocono, and Michigan consecutively. He then finished 11th at Sonoma after a tire issue early threw a wrench in the team's plans. The next week, McMurray's car was involved in a nine-car practice crash and was forced to a backup car for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona; the backup car was slow during the race, and he was involved in multiple large accidents. Still, due to the majority of the field being involved in wrecks, McMurray was able to hang on to finish 15th. After 17 races, McMurray was 6th in points, the highest winless driver in the points. He also had a 85-point cushion over Aric Almirola. McMurray finished 14th at Kentucky after starting 7th. McMurray lost one spot in the standings to 7th. McMurray looked to grab a top 10 at New Hampshire until he lost a cylinder in his engine and finished 26th. As a result, he dropped to 9th in the standings. Over the next few races he didn't pick up many points due to a 40th at Watkins Glen. At Bristol he rallied back for an 11th, which kept him in 10th place in the driver standings. He went on to make the Chase for the first time in his career, seeded 12th in the standings.
At Chicagoland, McMurray started 13th and finished 16th. At New Hampshire, he started 23rd and finished 14th. Heading into Dover, he started 11th due to rain washing out qualifying. He was 11th in the points, just two points above the cut line for who would be eliminated from the Chase going into the Contender Round, and one point above Dale Earnhardt Jr., who marked the cutoff line. During the race, McMurray would be locked in a constant battle with Earnhardt for control of the final transfer spot. Ultimately, Earnhardt finished third and McMurray finished fourth, which tied them in points, which was broken in favor of Earnhardt, which cut McMurray from the Chase.
On September 19, McMurray joined NASCAR on NBC for the Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland as a guest analyst.
At Martinsville, McMurray looked to be set to finish 1 lap down in 24th place. However, after a caution with less than 50 laps to go, caused by Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecking Joey Logano, McMurray got back on the lead lap and after a pit stop, had the fastest car in the field. McMurray, with the fastest car, charged through the field after a restart, to finish second behind Jeff Gordon.
McMurray started out the 2016 season with a 17th place at Daytona. During the next 3 races he finished 16th, 16th, and 21st, before getting his first top ten - a tenth at Fontana. McMurray would spin at Martinsville, and finish outside the top 20. After finishing inside the top 20 over the next 3 races, McMurray would be involved in the big one at Talladega. However, he would rally back for a fourth place, his first top five, and second top ten of the year.
The next two weeks were rough. At Kansas he has to repair damage from a crewman who body-slammed the car. He finished 26th. At Dover, he got caught up in the big one and finished several laps down in 21st. Three races later, McMurray would finish 9th at Michigan. After a seventeenth at Sonoma, McMurray would contend at Daytona, but contact from Kyle Larson, and Jimmie Johnson would cause him to spin, causing the big one.
As the summer began to wound down, McMurray would heat up. He finished seventh at Kentucky in a fuel mileage race. A good 6th place at New Hampshire would allow him to slip further ahead of his competition. However a spin at Indy, and Chris Buescher winning at Pocono didn't help, although McMurray still finished in the top 20 for both races. He would then score three eight place finishes in row, at Watkins Glen, Bristol, and Michigan, allowing McMurray to slip past Ryan Newman in the chase standings. This would be good, as when Kyle Larson won at Michigan, McMurray would find himself 15 points in, ahead of Newman.
McMurray served as a Fox NASCAR analyst for the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas. McMurray's first top 5 came at the GEICO 500 when he managed to avoid the Big One and finish 2nd to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in an overtime finish. McMurray racked up nine top-ten finishes in the first 16 races of the year, posting another top-five effort at Michigan. McMurray would survive the night race at Daytona to finish 14th, ahead all drivers in front of him in the points with the exception of Jimmie Johnson. At Kentucky, he managed to score his eleventh top-ten of the year. McMurray managed to make the Playoffs for the third year in a row.
On January 4, 2014, Chip Ganassi Racing announced that McMurray will run the 24 Hours of Daytona for the team in the No. 01 car alongside Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Sage Karam. At the team's announcement, McMurray stated, "It's the most fun race I get to run all year long. There's no points for us and it's all about being able to win. What makes it such a good time, you'll see guys all year long and they'll be here, so you can eat lunch with them, hang out and things like that. It’s fun to be a part of it." McMurray returned to the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2015 in the No. 02 car with Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Cup teammate Kyle Larson. The team would win the event, and McMurray joined A. J. Foyt , Mario Andretti and Jeff Gordon as the only drivers to win the Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Daytona. McMurray would also drive in the same team for the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
McMurray was born in Joplin, Missouri. He grew up racing go-karts and competed in nearly every form of karting around the country before moving to late-model stock cars. In 2007, McMurray returned to the karting ranks and still competes in World Karting Association races on many of his open weekends. He races annually at the World Karting Association's Daytona KartWeek in late December.
McMurray married Christy Futrell in July 2009. Their first child Carter Scott McMurray was born Thanksgiving morning, November 25, 2010. Their second child, a daughter named Hazel, was born February 11, 2013.
Through his trouble-filled 2009, and his contrasting 2010, McMurray found the power of prayer. Following his win at Charlotte in 2010, McMurray said in his post race interview, "As those laps were winding down, I was thinking about Daytona and why I cry and the power of prayer. I had a tough year last year. I found out the power of prayer and what that can do for you. When you get to victory lane, and you get to experience this, it just makes you a believer."
(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)
* Season still in progress
1 Ineligible for series points
(key) Bold – pole position (overall finish/class finish).