TALLADEGA, Ala. -- When 21-year-old phenom Kyle Larson starts racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series next season, he'll have a veteran teammate to help guide him.
A winning one, at that.
VICTORY: McMurray ends drought at Talladega
At 37, Jamie McMurray reminded the NASCAR world of his restrictor-plate prowess with a win at Talladega Superspeedway. Out of seven career wins, four have come at the plate tracks (Talladega and Daytona International Speedway).
"Jamie can drive at these places," Earnhardt Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates said. "He can drive anywhere, but anytime you get Jamie on a superspeedway, he's a force to be reckoned with."
McMurray's experience — which extends far beyond just plate tracks — will come in handy for Larson next season.
But for fans who have followed NASCAR for more than a decade, it's hard to think of McMurray as a veteran driver. Many still remember him as the 26-year-old who burst onto the scene by driving to victory at Charlotte in just his second Cup start.
McMurray, though, might be closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He's no longer a kid with potential but a journeyman who is the married father of two children — Carter, who turns 3 next month, and eight-month-old Hazel.
Though having a younger teammate doesn't come close to raising a child, McMurray will need to nurture Larson as the Californian gets used to the rigors of longer races (Larson has never completed a 500-mile race) and the increasing demand from sponsors, news media and fans.
McMurray might be just the veteran for the job — at least team owner Chip Ganassi thinks so. He re-signed McMurray in August to return to the team's No. 1 car.
Though Larson won't have road-course ace Juan Pablo Montoya around at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing — Montoya lost his ride and is moving to IndyCar — McMurray could be a better fit for the soft-spoken, laid-back Larson.
Just look at Talladega's victory lane moments. McMurray got choked up when discussing his family. He's not the stereotypical gruff, hard-nosed racer; he's more the sensitive type.
After father and son went trick-or-treating on Saturday night in the drivers' motorhome lot — Carter dressed up as a dinosaur — they celebrated together on Sunday. McMurray called it one of the "top two or three moments of my life."
McMurray keeps some of his go-karts stored at Matt Kenseth's personal race shop and was walking through it recently when he stopped and saw a picture of the Kenseth family in victory lane together.
"I went home and told (wife) Christy, 'Gosh, I hope we get to have that moment,'" McMurray said. "That's really special. Especially having a boy who is into Lightning McQueen (from Cars) and racing in general — that would just be the coolest thing ever."
That moment hadn't happened since Carter was born. McMurray's last win came 108 races ago — in October 2010 at Charlotte, which capped off a career year which saw him also win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.
So Talladega certainly seemed like a good time for a photo op.
During a live TV interview with ESPN, McMurray stopped mid-sentence to bend down and motion for Carter to come over. The little boy ran into McMurray's arms and they embraced.
A few minutes later, McMurray finally got that photo he wanted — though it took some bribing.
"I said, 'Carter, look at the camera and smile,' (but) he got shy," he said. "I informed him he could have all the M&M's he wanted if he would just do one picture — and he turned right around, smiled and held his No. 1 up.
"It was good compromise."