NASCAR's McMurray keeps hometown, tornado-ravaged Joplin, in his heart

Jamie McMurray's car honors tornado victims in his hometown.
Jamie McMurray's car honors tornado victims in his hometown. (Associated Press)
Posted: June 02, 2011

FULL DISCLOSURE: Forgetting that Jamie McMurray is from Joplin, Mo., was a "duh" moment. I'm now hitting myself upside the head with a restrictor plate, which makes writing somewhat difficult.

I know McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet, is from Missouri. Just never put the McMurray/Joplin connection together after the devastating tornado leveled much of the city and killed at least 134 people.

Before last Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, McMurray discussed the tragedy and his relationship to Joplin. He carried "Hope for Joplin" on his race car.

"I had friends send me pictures of the neighborhood I grew up in, and it's gone," said McMurray, who turns 35 tomorrow. "The only part left of my house was the address on the front wall."

While McMurray's family has moved to North Carolina, he still has friends in Joplin.

"I haven't known anyone that's lost their life," he said. "I have a lot of friends that have lost their homes. A friend told me Joplin would recover; he just didn't know if it would recover in our lifetime."

Previously, before NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas Speedway, site of Sunday's race, McMurray has returned to Joplin to fish. He plans to visit today, but not to fish. He said he's meeting the Convoy for Hope at Bass Pro Shops, his sponsor.

"They're sending a lot of supplies that day," McMurray said. "The mayor and chief of police are giving me a tour. Everyone involved with our NASCAR program, whether it's sponsors, team owners or crew guys, all came to me before I could get to them, asking for ways they could help."

Although McMurray moved to North Carolina for his racing career, Joplin always will be his hometown.

"You only know where you grew up, right?" he asked. "Joplin to me was just normal. I think about it with my kid and how much different he's going to grow up than I did because we're going to live in a much larger environment where there are museums and different culture."

'CLOSER' STRONG AT THE END

Weird stat of the season: In Kevin Harvick's three Cup wins this year, he has led only nine laps. Talk about making lead laps count . . .

In his latest surge, he passed leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of the Coca-Cola 600 when Earnhardt ran out of fuel. Harvick led only one other lap in the race. At California, he passed Jimmie Johnson on the last lap to win. Harvick paced six laps at Martinsville.

Harvick's nickname is "The Closer." He also could be called "The Ghost," because he often suddenly appears out of the pack to win.

Harvick has led 108 laps this year (most: 47 at Darlington). The Cup laps leader is two-time race winner Kyle Busch, 852.

With a series-leading three victories after only 12 races, Harvick, second in points, has all but guaranteed himself a berth in the Chase for the Championship.

FEELING FOR INDY ROOKIE

With Tony Stewart's experience in IndyCar racing, he understands the disappointment of J.R. Hildebrand, the Indy 500 rookie who crashed on the final turn while leading the race. Hildebrand said that when he decided to pass Charlie Kimball on the outside, his car drifted high on the track, where there was less grip.

"You feel for him," Stewart, the 1997 IndyCar series champion, said on a Tuesday conference call. "The guy was less than a mile away from winning his first Indy 500 in the biggest race of his life. It was definitely a mistake. He'll look at it a million times and realize what he could do different.

"I thought he kept his composure even when he hit the wall. When he got [the car] going straight again, even though it was dragging down the wall, he was back on the gas still trying to win the race.

"In his interview after the race and [team owner] John Barnes, I thought those guys were a class act."

PIT STOPS

Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano will appear as themselves in the season debut of A&E's "The Glades" Sunday at 10 p.m. Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet is sponsored by the show Sunday at Kansas . . . The NHRA Super Nationals are at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., this weekend. In last year's Top Fuel final, Larry Dixon defeated Antron Brown . . . The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam is at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday at 7 p.m. Tom Meents won the racing competition in the world finals in Las Vegas in March. Jim Koehler prevailed in the freestyle competition.

THIS WEEK'S RACE

STP 400

Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Fox/WNPV (1440-AM)

Race course: 1.5-mile oval

Race distance: 400 miles/267 laps

Race forecast: Sunny, 88 degrees

Last year's winner: Greg Biffle

Last year's pole winner: Kasey Kahne, 174.644 mph

Track qualifying record: Matt Kenseth, 180.856 mph (October 2005)

Track facts: Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are two-time winners at Kansas . . . Biffle led 60 laps, including the last 29, in winning last year's race. Jimmie Johnson was runner-up; Kevin Harvick was third . . . Seven of the 12 Kansas Cup winners have started 20th or lower . . . David Ragan's second-place finish in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 was his career best . . . Joey Logano (third) and A.J. Allmendinger (fifth) each had their best finishes of the season . . . Danica Patrick and Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne return to the Nationwide series Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway (ESPN, 8 o'clock). In her last Nationwide race before she rejoined the IndyCar series, Patrick recorded her best stock-car finish: fourth at Las Vegas. Bayne has recovered from an undisclosed illness.

Wins: Kevin Harvick, 3; Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, 2 each; Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, 1 each.

SPRINT CUP STANDINGS (Through 12 of 36 races)

1. Carl Edwards 445

2. Kevin Harvick 409

3. Jimmie Johnson 408

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 402

5. Kyle Busch 392

6. Kurt Busch 377

7. Matt Kenseth 374

8. Clint Bowyer 365

9. Tony Stewart 356

10. Ryan Newman 353

11. Greg Biffle 343

12. Denny Hamlin 339

13. A.J. Allmendinger 335

14. Mark Martin 334

15. Juan Montoya 329

16. Jeff Gordon 324

17. Marcos Ambrose 320

18. David Ragan 313

19. Kasey Kahne 309

20. Paul Menard 306

Up next: Pocono 500, June 12, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa., 1 p.m.; TV: TNT; last year's winner: Denny Hamlin.

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