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Minter: McMurray Emotes At CMS

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 18 2010

Jamie McMurray lights 'em up after winning in Charlotte Saturday night. (Photo by Gregg Ellman - Pool/Getty Images for NASCAR)

So far, this year’s Chase hasn’t drawn the TV audience or the paying fans that many in NASCAR figured it would, especially given the rules changes and other tweaks intended to make the racing on the track more exciting.

Something just seems to be missing. Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte showed a side of NASCAR that seems to have gotten lost in the push to put most of the emphasis on the points race and the Chase.

It’s seeing a driver like Jamie McMurray get out of his car in Victory Lane and speak from his heart – not from a script prepared by his handlers or the NASCAR PR types.

Hearing McMurray talk about prayer, about his dad and about Shane Hmiel’s family was as refreshing as a cool rain after a long hot dry spell.

In a time when good people are losing jobs through no real fault of their own, here’s a guy the victims of corporate downsizing  – many of them NASCAR fans – can identify with. They can take hope in the fact that McMurray was ousted from Roush Fenway Racing a year ago and didn’t really know what the future held but bounced back and won three Cup races, including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, along with a Nationwide race at Atlanta, the very next season.

No wonder he shed tears at Daytona back in February, as he explained on live national TV at Charlotte.

“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, is what I said, 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.”

So even if you don’t like the Chase and don’t like the COT and don’t like the Lucky Dog or the wave-around rule, there’s still plenty to like about NASCAR.

You can begin to like a driver like McMurray, who gets up on the wheel as good as anyone when the checkered flag is about to fly but isn’t scared to let his true emotions show. You can warm up to a fellow like Matt Kenseth, a very talented driver who openly admits he doesn’t really belong in a championship hunt given his team’s mediocre performances of late.

And you can come to like the smile on the face of a young driver like Michael McDowell, who has great ambition but is stuck for now in the start-and-park world.

You can look at the recent Hall of Fame selections and take heart in the fact that a shoo-in superhero like Darrell Waltrip had to take a back seat, for now, to an old war hero, Bud Moore, and to pioneering drivers Lee Petty and Ned Jarrett.

There really are good things happening in NASCAR. They just seem to get overlooked sometimes. Last week, it was impossible not to see them.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 18 2010
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