Mcmurray Has Pole And High Hopes
August 11, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
If Jamie McMurray's living a dream, don't bother waking him. He's quite content with how things are going as he heads into Nashville Speedway for Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event with high hopes and the pole in tow.
In two races with TKO Motorsports, the rookie has finishes of sixth and third to his credit. That's on top of winning the pole at Michigan in his debut with the organization. Having started the year with MB Motorsports -- a gutty if underfunded team -- the transformation has been astounding.
McMurray’s hot streak continued to surprise the rest of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Once again, McMurray came out of nowhere to take the pole for the Federated Auto Parts 250 at Nashville Speedway Friday.
McMurray’s 111.177 mph speed bumped Jack Sprague, who was slightly leading rookie Scott Riggs in qualifying. Mike Wallace will start the race third, followed by Andy Houston.
McMurray couldn't stop smiling after finishing sixth at Indianapolis Raceway Park last week, which is understandable. It was easy to chalk the Michigan run up to a superior engine, but surviving at a short track is another story all together. He may have angered a driver or two with his aggressive style at IRP, but McMurray's excitement is contagious.
"I'll tell you what, my life has really turned around in the last month," said the Joplin, Mo., native. "Just getting to come down here to (Texas to work in the shop at) TKO Motorsports has just been a great opportunity for me and I'm getting to see a whole different side of the truck series than I was in before."
Starting out in go-karts, McMurray won five championships at that level. He moved onto Late Model rides, then claimed rookie of the year honors last summer in the Re/Max Challenge Series. That earned him five starts with Mike Mittler last year and the ride in the team's Ford to open the year.
"I knew going in that it was an underfunded team, but I just wanted to get to be at the track and be around the people so I could get an opportunity like I did," he explained. "So, I knew going in that when I was with the 26 truck it wasn't going to be a truck that was going to go out and sit on the pole and have a chance to win the race but I just
wanted to get to be there.
"A few weeks ago, Mike Farris, the owner of TKO, called me and said that they were looking to make a few changes and asked if I was interested in coming down and giving it a shot."
Randy Renfrow opened the year with the team, but the North Carolina resident wasn't interested in moving to Texas to work in the shop.
McMurray, who is single, didn't have family ties to deal with and jumped at the opportunity.
He'd heard from some teams prior to Farris' call, but none of those opportunities were for this season. And while he was looking to move on, that didn't make leaving his current team any easier.
"We had some bad luck but, it was an underfunded team. Everyone on the team had a heart of gold and gave 100 percent every week, and the car owner was just tremendous.," McMurray said of Mittler. "He was almost like a second father to me, we were so close; he'd been involved with Rusty Wallace back in the early 80s when Rusty was getting out of ASA and getting into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
"So he had a pretty neat background and he told me that I reminded him a lot of Rusty so we had a great relationship, but I got the phone call from Mike Farris to come down to Dallas and get to drive this truck and I knew it was going to be a terrific opportunity."
Although the 24-year-old McMurray doesn't know his fellow competitors that well, he does goof around some with Mike Wallace as they have a former team owner in common.
"It's kind of a neat history that we have together," he said of Wallace. "I don't really want to say he's helped me so much in the garage area with setups and like that because we really don't go to that area. We just go over and talk about what each other's trucks are doing to compare and mainly just joke around."
For two races, at least, McMurray has shown he has what it takes to contend for wins. He wasn't sure if that would be possible when he first joined TKO.
"I knew they'd had some good runs in the past, but they hadn't won any races and I wasn't really sure (how good the team was)," he said. "I was a little bit skeptical, but I knew it was going to be a good opportunity."
At this rate, he'll have plenty of future opportunities as well.
McMurray, though, is taking things the ever-popular "one race at a time."
"I've had a couple of opportunities just in the last couple of weeks of people calling about a NASCAR Busch Series car," he said. "But the Busch Series looks so tough to me right now. ... Right now, I'm very content with where I'm at running the Truck Series until I can get some experience on the bigger race tracks.
"I'm content where I'm at for at least the next year, but I definitely want to run the Busch Series and then end up in the Winston Cup Series one day. It's what I think everyone's dream is or goal is in the Truck Series or any form of NASCAR is to eventually move up into the Winston Cup Series. That's where everybody wants to be."
For now, though, McMurray's smile is lighting up the truck series.