HIGHER POWER – McMurray wins again, inspired by father and faith
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
Right in the middle of a Chase that doesn’t seem to be exciting fans as much as the NASCAR powers that be had hoped for, along comes a heart-warming story involving a popular non-Chase driver.
Jamie McMurray, the odd man out at Roush Fenway Racing last year, sped away from Chasers Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway and grabbed his third Sprint Cup victory of an improbable comeback season. He’s already won the sport’s two biggest races, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, plus a Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car.
In Victory Lane, McMurray took time to talk about what winning races means to him these days, and to explain more about why he was in tears and almost unable to speak after winning the Daytona 500 back in February.
But first he talked about how much it meant for him that his dad Jim McMurray, a regular fixture around the tracks who somehow missed seeing his son take two checkered flags this year, was finally able to see his son take the checkered flag.
“It’s very special,” McMurray said. “My dad and I are really good friends, and he is certainly what got me involved in racing. We still race go carts together, we fish together, we do all kinds of stuff together; and he is really one of my best friends. It’s important to have him here.”
He also talked about being able to dedicate his win to the family of Shane Hmiel, gravely injured in a dirt-track race the week before.
Hmiel’s father Steve, a longtime NASCAR crew chief and team manager, is one of the key players on McMurray’s Chip Ganassi-owned team.
“Shane Hmiel had a terrible racing accident, and our team is thinking about him,” McMurray said. “We’d certainly like to dedicate our win tonight to him and the whole Hmiel family. I wish Steve could’ve been here; he is a huge part of our success.”
And then he talked about his emotions back at Daytona in February.
“I don’t think I ever really got to explain that and why I cried and what was going on there,” he said. “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. And it’s something that is obviously very important to me and my family.”
Later, in his post-race session with the media, McMurray, who is now married and expecting a child, expanded even more on his faith and what it means to have prayers answered. He also said that he considers it selfish to pray for success on the race track ahead of other things in life.
“Certainly it’s not the first thing that I pray about every day,” he said. “But everyone wants to be successful and you want to do well in life, so when you feel like that’s been answered, it’s emotional.”
He said he was pondering those comments as the laps wound down at Charlotte.
“I was like, ‘If I win this race, Lord, if you don’t throw a caution … and I win this race, I’m going to explain to people my feelings and why I felt that way,’” he said.
“And I think that’s important.
“I watch other professional athletes – whether it’s bull riders or basketball players or motorcycle riders – you hear them get out, and you hear them thank God and talk about the power of prayer, and I just think that that’s important for people to understand, and understand why my feelings were the way they were.”