NASCAR, IMSA and AMA Pro announce Fanschoice.TV
posted by Mike Neff
Wednesday March 12, 2014
Free live streaming of events will allow fans to view previously unavailable live events online
AMA Pro, NASCAR and IMSA announced the launch of Fanschoice.tv today. The free service will stream motorcycle races, sports car races and regional touring and local short track events. The first event will be the AMA Pro flat track 200 from the 1/4 mile dirt track at Daytona International Speedway.
Fans will have access to multiple camera angles, live timing and scoring and a feed from the track’s PA system. In addition to the touring events from IMSA, AMA and NASCAR, three NASCAR Home Tracks have already signed on to be part of the release. Langley Speedway in Hampton, VA., Lake County Speedway in Painesville, OH., and Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA. will have all of their races available for viewing on the new service.
NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series, Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen Southern Modified Tour will all be shown on Fanschoice.tv. The awards banquets for both the Whelen All-American Series and the Touring Series will also be streamed.
IMSA coverage will include streaming of its developmental and single-make series, as well as selected practice and qualifying sessions for the two IMSA national sports car series, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge that are part of the recently-announced five-year agreement with Fox Sports.
NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
After a tsunami of hype in the days leading up to 2010, Daytona is finally behind us… well, sort of. Much has been written and will continue to be written about the infamous potholes that led to unacceptably long downtimes during the event, giving NASCAR yet another black eye. Meanwhile, countless columns and comments on Internet message boards have been devoted to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hellbent-for-leather charge through the pack on the final lap, oft compared to his dad’s last win at Talladega. It’s also seen to some as a certain indication that Junior and the No. 88 team are finally going to get it together this year. And more words have been written, are being written, and will doubtlessly continue to be written about one Ms. Danica Patrick, the most famous Nationwide driver ever to have an average 35th place career finish and a 100% DNF percentage.
But while Danica, Dale, and Daytona destruction dominate the headlines, lost in the shuffle is any meaningful mention of one guy who did what nobody else managed to do in the Great American Race…he won the damn thing. Jamie McMurray was a 40:1 longshot on most betting boards, and was considered part of the “field” by others. His Daytona 500 win despite those odds reduced him to speechlessness and tears shortly after hopping out of his car to celebrate the win, by far the biggest moment of his career to date. It was a little awkward to watch, at least for this writer, but fans have been saying they want to see genuine emotion from the drivers, and if nothing else, McMurray’s emotion in Victory Lane Sunday was genuine… as big as life and twice as real. How real? The TV cameras had been rolling for several minutes before he even managed to plug both the sponsor and make of the car he drove to the win, doubtless at the urging of his panicked PR lady and not his own desire to be politically correct.
McMurray’s tears have to be put in context to understand. Yeah, winning the Daytona 500 is still a real big deal. It’s the most watched race on the Cup circuit, and the one even most non-fans know about (at least in a non-Olympic year.) Winning the Daytona 500 is right up there with winning a title or the Southern 500, which they don’t even run anymore, as far as giving a driver some measure of immortality. His name now engraved on the Harvey J. Earl trophy, McMurray will be a part of that special tradition forever (or as long as there are Daytona 500s still run in February.) But what also triggered that emotional outburst, perhaps more than anything else, is the realization his somewhat tortured career path had been fixed – just months after it seemed headed for a permanent dead-end from which it would never recover.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In the fall of 2002, Sterling Marlin was leading the Cup points fight in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge. But a pair of brutal accidents left Marlin with neck injuries so severe, doctors advised him he had to get out of the car or risk becoming a paraplegic during the next wreck. Marlin is a tough old coot, and I think he might have taken that risk were it not for the realization that if he was less than 100 percent behind the wheel, he also posed a danger to his fellow competitors. As it was, the year before Marlin had been so savagely and unfairly accused of being the driver who killed Dale Earnhardt the Original on the last lap of the Daytona 500, he’d even been subjected to death threats.
That was enough to push Marlin to give up his seat; and suddenly, Chip Ganassi’s Dodge team was faced with a dilemma. They’d lost their cagey veteran driver, but the No. 40 car was still in the hunt for the owner’s championship with a handful of races left in the season. So, a lot of people were stunned when Chip tapped rookie Jamie McMurray to drive the Coors Light Dodge while Marlin healed. To that point, McMurray had competed in 21 Truck Series races and won none of them. He’d competed in 63 Busch Series races with a best result of 4th, at Nazareth of all places.
McMurray finished 26th at Talladega that Fall in his first Cup start, a lap off the pace and never really in contention, backing up those critics who claimed the move was a terrible mistake. But then, something stunning happened. In just his second career Cup start at Charlotte, Jamie McMurray took the lead with 30 laps to go and held off Bobby Labonte by .35 seconds to take the win. That day, McMurray seemed as stunned as anyone to have wound up in Victory Lane. “Holy Cow!” he hollered over the radio over and over to his team.
And just like that, a star was born. McMurray was young, good-looking, and extremely personable. More importantly, he was successful. In the modern era, no driver has scored a Cup victory that quickly. Kevin Harvick was close, winning in just his third start, but my guess is you’ll never see another driver equal or eclipse McMurray’s record for near immediate success.
Armed with the momentum of that win, he went on to post a 7th place finish in the next weekend’s event at Atlanta. The rest of his Cup season finishes were less than memorable, but he did go on to win two Busch races later that year, reaching a whole new level of confidence inside the car.
With the upset victory already in his pocket, McMurray finally seemed to have reached his dream. He landed a full-time Cup ride for 2003 with Chip Ganassi Racing, earning a nice salary and the required fancy ride. He had an uber-hot girlfriend, a former Miss Something he met at the track. And Dodge, newly back in Cup racing, had their new young star, their Jeff Gordon, to battle with the big guns at Chevy and Ford. McMurray replaced Casey Atwood in the manufacturer’s rising star department; and, as an added benefit, he didn’t look like a refugee from the South Park cartoon.
But 2003 didn’t go quite as expected for McMurray. He managed just five top 5s in 36 starts, then averaged a 19th place finish en route to a 13th place finish in the final standings. 2004 went a little better. At the wheel of the Texaco/Havoline Dodge, McMurray managed 23 top 10 finishes in 36 starts, including a second place result at Martinsville and a stunning second place finish to Jeff Gordon at Sonoma. He finished 11th in the standings that year, just missing a trip to the New York banquet. In 2005, McMurray finished 12th in the points, with second place finishes at Texas and, of all places, Daytona.
But while McMurray remained relentlessly upbeat and trusting in his team, it was clear by the time 2005 ended it was time for a change. That summer, Jack Roush had approached McMurray about driving for him in 2006, making an offer for what seemed to be a dream opportunity with the newly-revamped No. 26. All of Roush’s drivers had made the Chase in 2005, and between them, they had amassed 15 victories.
At the end of 2005, Roush Racing was also the hottest team on the circuit. Jack Roush has a pretty good eye for talent, and the list of drivers whose Cup careers he started or advanced is formidable. It seemed a dream arrangement from a PR standpoint, too, as the affable McMurray would replace the then-mercurial Kurt Busch, who’d gotten his butt fired after a run-in with the law in Phoenix late that year.
On paper, it was the perfect match; but for whatever reason, the pairing just never gelled. McMurray wanted it to work. Roush wanted it to work. His team was always foursquare behind McMurray. Yet in 2006, McMurray slid to 25th in the points with just three top 5 finishes. In 2007, McMurray once again stunned the pundits with an underdog win at the Firecracker 400 (shades of things to come), but he still finished 17th in the points. I remember watching McMurray win that night, though I missed most of the race.
July 7, 2007 was the day my Mom died. Over the previous few years, I’d occasionally watched races with my mom either during family functions or in her hospital rooms. Though she was far from a race fan, she was a fan of mine, and tried to at least pretend to be interested in those races for my benefit. Jamie McMurray was her chosen driver simply because he had an Irish surname.
On a day when I, too, was reduced to tears, Mom’s driver won the race against all odds. Mom’s lifetime message to me (along with not putting beers on the good furniture without a coaster and “would you please get a haircut!”) was all about continuing to hope and work hard when it seemed the odds were against you, and never to stop believing. So if you think Jamie cried hard at Daytona Sunday, you should have seen me that Saturday night after the race, sleeping alone at Mom’s place for the final time as my sisters and I began the grim task that involves burying a parent.
McMurray went winless in 2008, then entered 2009 with the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Under new NASCAR rules, Jack Roush was going to have to cut back to four teams at the end of the season. McMurray’s team wasn’t performing. He needed to step it up. Even a win at Talladega late that year couldn’t turn the tide. DeWalt was leaving the No. 17 team with star driver Matt Kenseth, so McMurray’s Crown Royal sponsorship was being transferred to replace it. Shortly thereafter, it was announced the No. 26 team was being sold – leaving Jamie McMurray out of a ride.
Now, I don’t wring my hands a whole lot over the career misfortunes of NASCAR drivers. I’ve been following this sport a long time, and I know it’s a cruel world. It’s a business where the “What Have You Done For Me Lately…” mentality overrides past performance or early success. You need to be winning races or at least piling up the top 5 finishes if you want job security; unless, of course, your last name happens to be Earnhardt or Gordon. These guys have the mansions and the millions, and I am quite sure most of us could retire comfortably on what McMurray has squirreled away – even at his age.
But I do feel a certain amount of empathy for McMurray and drivers like him, who suddenly find their careers at a crossroads that might lead to a dead end. I, and I’m sure most of you reading this column, have worked hard most of my life to achieve something. (OK, most of you have worked a lot harder at chasing the dream than I have… I’m a writer.) You’ve made personal sacrifices, you’ve gone over and beyond what should be expected of you, and you’ve occasionally hit one out of the park in your chosen profession. You get out of bed, you give a damn, you work hard, and get the job done.
To fight that fight and then to be told your services are no longer needed stings like few things in life. I’ve been unemployed a couple of times, and for all the joking I did with my friends about needing a couple months off to hide the hurt and uncertainty, I didn’t like it. In this economy, you doubtlessly know someone who is unemployed through no fault of their own, and some of you are doubtlessly among the 10 percent of Americans currently out of work.
People struggle, they interview, they cut back on spending, and they keep working at getting back to work. But there’s times laying awake late at night you begin to feel that awful gnawing doubt. Maybe I’m not good enough at what I do. Maybe I’m never going to find a job again. Maybe I’m going to have to downsize my dreams and accept less than I wanted out of life. But you get up in the morning, hoist that cup of coffee in still trembling hands, and you continue to dream and fight. Jamie McMurray had a few of those nights along the way after fighting since childhood to race at the Cup level.
Fortunately, McMurray hadn’t burned his bridges behind him, and overtures were made by Earnhardt-Gannassi Racing to bring him back into the fold. Leaving Roush for the struggling EGR wasn’t a lateral move, but it would keep McMurray racing on the Cup level. The team was struggling, and struggling mightily, but it was a ride and another chance to live the dream. The final sticking point seemed to be the sponsor, Bass Pro Shops, whose marketing people weren’t convinced McMurray projected the rugged, outdoorsy image their company sought. Eventually, Ganassi convinced them otherwise, McMurray signed on the dotted line, and on Sunday their new driver won the sport’s biggest prize for his new team in a bit of a stunner.
Maybe McMurray’s Daytona 500 win shouldn’t have been seen as such as a shocker. Three of his four career Cup victories have come in restrictor plate racing. On plate tracks, you need to have friends to win, and McMurray has many friends and few enemies in the garage. It was interesting to see his competitors and teammates, past and present, all hurrying over to congratulate Jamie on his win. It was something out of a Hollywood script, as a matter of fact, and I’m too damn cynical to go see that film. But yeah, I caught myself grinning as McMurray hoisted the trophy. And even as well as the Daytona 500 pays, McMurray admitted he and his wife planned to head to McDonald’s, continuing the tradition that started with his win at Talladega last Fall. Here’s the weird part, though: McDonald’s doesn’t even sponsor McMurray. I can’t even remember seeing any driver McDonald’s sponsored actually saying they planned to eat a Big Mac to celebrate a win. Popular wisdom says, “Nice guys don’t win.” Well, popular wisdom was proven wrong Sunday. Again.
A long, long, time ago, fresh out of college I took a suit and tie cubicle job as a technical writer. It wasn’t for me. Writing “Turn control of the boiler management valve from manual to automatic by following the Standard Transfer Procedure described on Page 2” wasn’t the racing novel I dreamed of writing. I hate wearing ties. I hate office politics. The problem was, I loved the company I worked for. I loved the owners. I loved my forty or so fellow employees. I was well-liked, and good at what I did. But I woke up one morning and decided, “I can’t do this anymore. I want to do something that involves cars or writing, because those are my passions.” So I gave my notice, and left a good-paying job with a future for an uncertain new day. And I woke up in the middle of the night after I cashed my last paycheck doubtlessly feeling like Jamie McMurray did last November.
On the last day I worked at that company a dear friend, a woman I’d have married had her husband not been wise enough to snag her up first, Marilyn gave me a small plaque that still hangs in my home. It reads, “Trust in God, believe in yourself, and dare to dream.”
So to Jamie McMurray, thanks for living the dream for those of us who still need to hope in uncertain times – especially all Americans looking for work right now. Keep on believing in your bad old self, and Godspeed this season.
“We made us a promise, we swore to always remember, no retreat, baby, and no surrender…” Bruce Springsteen
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Jamie is the reason that I am a NASCAR fan today. In the summer of 2005 I happened to see him on an episode of MTV Cribs. I had never heard of him but he caught my interest because he was very personable as he gave a tour of his home in Statesville (this was the first house he ever bought)and I have to admit that he was pleasing to the eye. So after watching a couple of races I became an avid Jamie and NASCAR fan. Five years later, I am still enjoying the ride. I hope Jamie can capitalize on this win and have a very successful 2010. Go Jamie!
Great, great article Matt. Just as moving as McMurray’s win.
this cynical old dale sr fan was so happy to see jamie win on sunday evening. reminded me of when ward burton won. what moved me the most was jamie’s sheer emotion, the fact that he mentioned his dad and his wife before even going down the sponsor list. he showed the sport that he is human and not a drone. i’ve pulled for jamie over the years, he’s been the hard luck kid at many times. seeing biffle in victory lane congratulating his friend and co-competitor was priceless. greg was so happy and moved for jamie.
what drove sr for 20 yrs to win that race is the same thing that drove jamie. a daytona 500 champion is something that no one can ever take away from you. derrick cope’s claim to fame is his 500 win.
congrats to jamie, thanks to ganassi for taking jamie back into the fold. i’m sure “big E” was smiling down on jamie sunday night as well.
Jamie Mac is as plastic as they come. Promoted, sponsored, and given rise through the ranks because of his looks, vanilla personality, and non-offensive nature. NOT, his driving ability.
Anyone could have won in the 40 car the year Sterling was injured. When you luck into the top ride in NASCAR you better win – for the crew. Jamie did nothing to prepare that car or that team for victory. This Daytona 500 win also reflects his ability to inherit another teams work – and do his job, nothing more.
Outside of the wins in the 40 car – Jamie has 2 restrictor plate wins. Or as Mark Martin would say “he won the lotto.” Again, that takes more luck – than skill.
Name the last impressive move Jamie made on the track. Name the last time he “rubbed” another driver on the racetrack. Name an instance that personifies the NASCAR that all of the old-school fans on this site talk about daily. It’s pretty tough.
Matt, as for your premature bashing of Ms. Patrick. Remember two things – 1) Jimmie Johnson also sucked in the Nationwide Series. Success, or lack of success there does not correlate to NASCAR’s top series. 2) Joey Lagano recieved similar praise over the past 2 years. And he had an equally rough start.
“Anyone could have won in the 40 car the year Sterling was injured.”
I more or less agree with that. Marlin had the best cars that season and Charlotte is more about car than driver, especially of late.
“Outside of the wins in the 40 car – Jamie has 2 restrictor plate wins. Or as Mark Martin would say “he won the lotto.” Again, that takes more luck – than skill.”
I see your point, but I don’t totally agree. For the relatively small number of plate wins Roush has, McMurray has done quite well. If he had been driving for a dominant plate team like Hendrick or DEI or Gibbs, I’d be less impressed. Well, he is driving for DEI now but it’s not like the glory days of the #8 and #15 in the early 2000s. At least I don’t think so.
“Name the last impressive move Jamie made on the track.”
I remember a great save he made at Las Vegas last year.
“Name the last time he “rubbed” another driver on the racetrack.”
What does this have to do with talent?
“Name an instance that personifies the NASCAR that all of the old-school fans on this site talk about daily.”
Well, no. That’s his main problem. He doesn’t fit most people’s image of a NASCAR driver.
“Success, or lack of success there does not correlate to NASCAR’s top series.”
Agree. Sadly the best indicator of success in Cup is whether you sign to a major Cup team or not, not whether you show talent in Busch/Nationwide or not. Most of the Busch champions have busted, while Johnson, Stewart, Kahne and Hamlin have succeeded, but…
“1) Jimmie Johnson also sucked in the Nationwide Series.”
I don’t agree with that. He finished in the top ten in points both times for Herzog Motorsports. Heard from them lately? Considering this was the era when Cup teams were really beginning their domination I think he did fine for the not-so-great equipment he had. (Although I’ll definitely admit he didn’t look like a Cup superstar at the time.) At least he won before getting to Cup. Stewart and Hamlin couldn’t even do that, even in a Gibbs car.
“2) Joey Lagano recieved similar praise over the past 2 years. And he had an equally rough start.”
Logano at least won a title in a regional touring series and won in Nationwide before getting to Cup, which even Hamlin couldn’t say, and now look at Hamlin. Logano will probably succeed when NASCAR reverts to spoilers and the cars are more Nationwide-like. Danica, by contrast, won ONE race in IndyCar and wasn’t as competitive there as Logano won in Nationwide. If you took some equivalent Cup driver like Brian Vickers, do you think they’d have a shot at success in IndyCar? (Casey Mears is the obvious equivalent to Danica in Cup given their one fuel mileage win for a dominant team each but I didn’t use him because Mears has some experience in open wheel…
Matt, if you’re not married….you really need to find a wife, dude. You’re becoming a grumpy old man.
Carefull with that “ Danica won 1 race on fuel mileage “ routine . You might want to go back and check records on races , all types of races , that were won on fuel mileage . Almost every winner of every Cup race in Michigan or Pocono for instance . Montoya at Infinion . And the list goes on , easily totaling in the hundreds , probably thousands .
Yes, but most winners have at least at some point been regular threats to win elsewhere without using fuel mileage. Montoya only has one win, but he was a semi-regular threat for wins last year regardless. Danica hasn’t been in IndyCar and seldom ever leads, and when you consider how MUCH superior IndyCar drivers like Franchitti and Hornish have done in Cup, assuming more out of Danica seems unlikely, unless it’s all car now.
DansMom: What a miserable person you are!
I like Sean’s comparison of Danica and Casey (who?) Mears.
However, success in the cup level requires a talented driver, a top team, and dedication and work ethic. Just like any other career.
When Jamie McMurray or David Ragan, become competative in a a year or two after they inherit their ride. I’ll give them respect. But, as for now… I’ll agree with Dansmom.
Robin… some people just can’t enjoy another person’s joy and accomplishment. Sad.
Wow, DansMom, one of the most popular wins in years and he only did his job and nothing more?Its good to see you take up the position of resident expert here. I AM an “old-school fan” and I enjoyed everything about his win, even what you see as “plastic”.
Nice Article Matt….I do agree with everone that pointed out the fact that the car jamie won his first race in could have been won by a monkey.. Lee Mccall & Sterling were on a roll that year (would’ve won the championship if not for the injury) and that car had been tested by Sterling…BUT still it is a nice article and since I talked by husband into picking Jamie for his fantasy team I look real smart!
Dansmon really needs some help!! This year as last all she does is pick on writers and drivers…if she really tried she could be nice …like me!!…….LOL
Well Sean , I’ve watched numerous IRL races where Danica ran very well . She’s also done pretty well in the IRL point standings .
If we’re going to discount McMurray’s win at Charlotte in 2002 because the car was so damned good, that’s fine, but then let’s also discount every win Jimmie Johnson has in cars prepared by Chad Knaus with Rick Hendrick’s money.
I’ve attended many a race at Charlotte where cars we on a rail but the driver didn’t get the win. Not losing a race is a prerequisite for winning it.
While Dansmom (or anyone else, for that matter) can belittle McMurray for realizing his greatest success, at the end of 500 miles and 7 hours it was still Jamie holding the one of the sport’s most coveted trophies.
DanMom, Why are you trying to spin this. I can count on one hand the number of 500 you could be talking about, words count and hurt, stop trying to down grade this win.
All we ever hear about on this site is people who bash drivers for not being “old school,” how today they are too polished, all they do is cater to their sponsors.
Jamie Mac is nothing like Dale, or Cale, or Petty. So why bash Jimmie, and Jeff and give Jamie a free ride?
Don’t all get mad at once – but Jamie did mention his sponsors after the win. It just took him a long time to do so, because he’s not used to giving speeches in victory lane.
Matt – long time reader and fan here – I purchased “Eights and Aces” years ago and still have it on a drive somewhere. In short, I enjoy your writing, rough edges and all. I’ve probably read everything you have posted since 1998 or so.
My intent is certainly not to kiss your ass here, as some internet idiot will likely do, just to lend some context to what I am about to say.
Great column, Matt. thanks.
DansMom, as happy as I was for Jamie, I don’t disagree with most of what you say, although Jamie was the top performer at Ganassi before he signed on with Roush.
And you lost me when you accused McMurray of getting a ride based on anything but driver ability and then follow up defending Danica Patrick. If ANYONE got their ride on something other than driving ability…
As you have done for years, Matt, another FANTASTIC article!! But … I believe McMurray is a Scottish name … LOL!! McMurray … MacMurray … …