TALLADEGA, Ala. -- When Jamie McMurray got home on Sunday night following his dramatic win at Talladega hours earlier, he turned to his wife, Christy, and asked what they should do to celebrate his first victory in nearly three years.
Champagne? A nice dinner?
Christy hopped on the computer while her emotionally drained husband crawled into bed with the couple's two dogs.
Sorry, McMurray's partying days are long gone.
''I've grown up a lot the last four years,'' the 33-year-old driver said.
He hasn't really had a choice. His four seasons at Roush Fenway Racing have been uneven at best. He moved to Roush from Chip Ganassi Racing in 2006 to compete for a championship. It simply hasn't happened.
McMurray failed to make the Chase in each of his four seasons and started 2009 knowing he'd likely be out of a job at the end of the year when Roush trimmed its Cup operation from five cars to four as part of a NASCAR mandate to limit team size.
His impending departure, however, seemed to alleviate some of the tension between McMurray and Roush. The team owner's tough love when McMurray struggled didn't produce the kind of results Roush expected, leading him to do something unexpected: change tactics.
''He came to me and said 'Jamie, I have learned that some people are motivated by humiliation, some are motivated by kicking them in the butt and I've learned with you that you're motivated more by positive reinforcement more than me yelling at you,''' McMurray said.
Now the prerace talks between owner and driver are friendlier. There are handshakes, compliments and the occasional joke.
There was plenty to smile about in the fading twilight at Talladega, where McMurray avoided the usual carnage to pick up his first victory since the 2007 summer race at Daytona.
McMurray and Roush doused each other with champagne, and Roush sounded wistful talking about McMurray's impending departure.
''(It's) a great sadness, but I hope that we can win another race with Jamie, and certainly am happy for this one,'' Roush said. ''The guys did a nice job. The car had speed in it, and they didn't make a mistake all day.''
It's a difficult task at the notoriously tricky 2.66-mile tri-oval. But after wrecking six laps in at the spring race at Talladega, McMurray opted to hang toward the back early on Sunday during the single-file parade. He figured he was in good company running alongside three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
''I thought (Jimmie) has pretty good luck,'' McMurray said. ''If I'm around him, that's a good sign.''
McMurray began his move to the front with about 50 laps to go, and benefited from a decision to take two tires instead of four on his last pit stop. It gave him the track position he needed to get to the front, and he found a friend in teammate Matt Kenseth, who gave McMurray a partner to fend off the usual late-race insanity.
''I was lucky he was behind me,'' said McMurray, who is close friends with Kenseth. ''He kept pushing me until the end. The fact he was behind me made it easier.''
Yet the win may have been a perfect summary of McMurray's time at Roush. Instead of talking about his brilliant run, much of the postrace questions surrounded NASCAR's edict to ban bump-drafting in the corners, Johnson's move toward a fourth straight title or McMurray's own future.
''It just kind of is what it is,'' said McMurray, who admitted to googling himself after the race to read the coverage. ''I'll just take it for what it's worth. It was big for us and big for our team.''
Particularly crew chief Donnie Wingo, who worked with McMurray at Ganassi Racing before coming over to Roush.
''To do it with your friends, it was really special to me,'' McMurray said.
And the resume booster couldn't have come at a better time. It's no fun being a free agent driver in the middle of a recession.
Full-time job opportunities are hard to come by, and there's only one job that's really open right now: the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet.
McMurray is well aware of the speculation he may be heading back to Ganassi, the place where he began his career. He said he still has a good relationship with Ganassi and Felix Sabates, and Sabates said earlier this month he held no grudge toward McMurray for his decision to leave for Roush.
The truth was, Ganassi wasn't that good at the time and Roush was coming off a year in which all its cars got into the Chase.
''When Jamie (McMurray) went to Roush, they were on top of the world,'' Sabates said. ''They had just won the championship.''