Fatherhood hasn’t doused Jamie McMurray’s competitive fire
Kris Johnson, NASCAR Illustrated/Scenedalily.com
FORT WORTH, Texas (www.scenedaily.com) – A popular theory used to hold that the accumulation of too many riches in a driver’s bank account coupled with the birth of his first child equaled a recipe for compromised resolve.
Can being a father for the first time contribute in any way to making a NASCAR driver soft, forcing him to pull back on the throttle however imperceptibly?
When posed with that question in his team hauler at Texas Motor Speedway, new dad Jamie McMurray didn’t exactly bristle because he’s not the bristling type. But his answer left no doubt about the strong feelings he has on the matter.
“That’s just media making random sh-- up. I think differently,” McMurray said. “When you were growing up, you wanted to make your parents proud. Then you get married and you want to make your wife proud, and then you have a kid, and you want to make him proud.
“The best way to do that is to go out and do well.”
Notwithstanding his seventh-place finish from the pole last weekend at Martinsville, McMurray hasn’t done much of that in 2011.
It’s hard to imagine that McMurray will ever have a more memorable year than the one he enjoyed in 2010. Winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season – and adding a victory in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s fall Chase race to complete the hat trick – represents a remarkable accomplishment for any driver.
Once the season concluded, McMurray welcomed his first child to the world on Thanksgiving Day. Clearly, he and wife Christy have much to be thankful for in the form of son Carter Scott.
But when McMurray’s dream season of a year ago yielded to a nightmarish start to 2011 on the track (28th in points before
Martinsville and 23rd heading into tonight’s Samsung Mobile 500), you didn’t have to be Matlock to figure out the biggest change
in his life this season compared to last.
That having-a-first-child theory doesn’t really hold water, though, when you look at the strange confluence of events that marked
the beginning of McMurray’s new campaign.
“We blew a motor at Daytona, we had a really fast car at Phoenix and got caught up in that 10-15 car pileup on the backstretch,”
McMurray said. “Did not run well at Las Vegas and then we had a really fast car at Bristol and got caught up in a wreck on lap 30.
“We’ve had good cars, and for me, that’s been what kind of drives you and keeps you going.”
Six races is not a representative enough sample to forecast McMurray’s chances of making the Chase. Not that he’s overly concerned about that, either. He remains steadfast in his belief that winning three races in a single season is more important than earning a playoff position. Give him the option right now, in fact, and he’ll take it.
“Absolutely, for sure,” he said. “I’d take it even if wasn’t Daytona or the Brickyard. If I could have three wins and not get in
the Chase, that’d be fine. I’d be good with that.”
Should he reel off another three victories in the next 20 races, chances are more than good that he’d make the Chase anyway given the new wildcard provision this year. Coming off the highlight-laden yet inconsistent season, McMurray believes the final 10-race format could play in his No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team’s favor.
“If you have a couple of wins and you’re the wildcard, it means you’re probably a Chase contender and probably a guy who could
compete for the championship,” he said. “When you have a year like we did last year and you can win but you just haven’t had the
consistency, I think that’s really cool because the way our championship is - it’s about 10 races and you don’t have to be the
most consistent guy to be good over 10.”
Whether he makes the Chase or not, wins another three races or even a championship, don’t expect McMurray’s views on any possible link between fledgling fatherhood and his performance on the race track to change.
“This is what you do,” the 34-year-old driver said. “Being a dad hasn’t changed my perspective on racing at all. It’s still tough.”