NASCAR Kansas Notebook: Jamie McMurray Unemotional About Kansas

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Jim Pedley ~ NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 12: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray poses with the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 trophies during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 12: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray poses with the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 trophies during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Missouri native Carl Edwards and Kansas native Clint Bowyer both got quite vocal, quite emotional the other day trying to explain what a victory in Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway would mean to them.

Edwards, who grew up in Columbia – which is located about 150 miles east of the Speedway – had to search for the right words to express his feelings. Bowyer, who seldom has to search for words about anything, actually got kind of serious for a brief moment when talking about it.

Jamie McMurray is also from Missouri and he too was asked the standard question about what a victory at Kansas would mean, and, if he consider the place to be his home track.

The native of Springfield – located in the southeastern part of Missouri – issued an answer that was kind of surprising to some of those who consider Kansas Speedway to be the American Heartland’s racing jewel.

“Yeah,” the Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver said, “I listen to Carl (Edwards) or Clint (Bowyer) maybe talk about that a little more than what I do. I mean I grew up three hours from here. So here and Texas are kind of… I mean I live in the middle of that. I don’t know. This isn’t a home track because we’ve all raced here the same amount of times. It’s not like we grew up racing here. It would be special to win here, but it would be special to win anywhere.”

Pressed a bit harder about how badly he wanted to win at Kansas, McMurray said, “As far as winning here, I don’t view this as a different race from anywhere else, other than knowing a lot more people as I walk out of the Media Center here and recognize faces that I haven’t seen in years. This is just as important as any other race. I don’t view it any differently than where we are racing next weekend.”

But make no mistake, McMurray loves Missouri and still has strong ties to his hometown.

He came back to the area early this week to do some decompressing by taking his hands off the steering wheel and wrapping them around a fishing rod.

“My Dad and I went to Bass Pro Shops (a sponsor of his team) farm and we fished about 12 hours a day the last three days,” McMurray said. “I’m glad that I got to come here and take a break from our activity. It was a lot of fun. It’s really great father/son bonding time. Johnny Morris actually came out and went fishing with my Dad and I. It was great to hear, he told stories about his Dad and some about his son. It’s nice to kind of hang out and just be normal for a few days. So we had a great time fishing. My Dad actually came to the race with me this weekend. That is nice he only comes to maybe one or two races a year.”


Career back-pedaling appeared to agree with Tommy Baldwin Jr. on Saturday afternoon. Sitting on a director’s chair behind his Tommy Baldwin Racing hauler in the infield of Kansas Speedway, Baldwin smiled and even laughed as he talked about his return to the role of crew chief for the evening’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400.

“It feels good,” Baldwin said. ”Obviously there are a lot of things going on (within his Sprint Cup team) but I’m really enjoying being back to calling the shots” from the top of the pit box.

Baldwin spent a hefty chunk of his racing career on pit boxes. First with the legendary Junie Donlavey in 1997, and then for other teams like for Bill Davis Racing and Evernham Motorsports.

In 2002, while serving as crew chief for driver Ward Burton on Bill and Gail Davis’ team, he helped win the Daytona 500.

In 2009, Baldwin launched Tommy Baldwin Racing. The team, underfunded by today’s standards, has had mixed results over the years but true racers push on and Baldwin is a true racer.

Earlier this week, Baldwin lost his crew chief, Kevin “Bono” Manion, who moved to Richard Petty Motorsports to become crew chief for Sam Hornish Jr. Rather than rush out and try to find another veteran crew chief to call the shots for driver Alex Bowman in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, Baldwin opted to use a veteran crew chief who was already on the payroll; himself.

“Like riding a bike,” he said of re-mounting the pit box stairs.

Asked why he descended those steps in the first place, Baldwin smiled. “Traveling through life, sometimes you have to decide if you want to grow or just maintain. I just felt like the timing and circumstances were right to take the chance.”


An inquiring mind in the media center at Kansas Speedway wanted to know why Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s girlfriend, Amy Reimann, was MIA at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend.

Reimann has become major camera fodder over the months. When she’s at races, she attracts a fair share of crossover attention.

Earnhardt Jr. drove his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to its first victory of the season last weekend and apparently some wondered why Reimann was nowhere to be seen.

Earnhardt Jr. cleared up the situation at Kansas Speedway, site of Saturday’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400.

“She is at a vacation home doing some remodeling,” he said. “When I met her she was working as an interior designer so she has been working on this property that we have together. She will be here Saturday, so tomorrow she will finally get here. And I’m about ready for her to get her because Gus (the couple’s Irish Setter) has been a handful and I just need a break.”

Earnhardt Jr. said that Reimann’s absence at Talladega was not a total anomaly. And from the sound of it, it’s kind of surprising she doesn’t miss more races.

“She missed one of the races last year, Pocono, that we won,” he said. “She was very disappointed. She has a part-time job that she piddles with just to have some normalcy and interaction with normal people. She doesn’t think that any of us here are normal. She thinks this racing thing is pretty crazy, so it’s fun for her to have some interaction with some real people. Sometimes she misses a race or two because of that.”


It’s like an immutable law of physics: Racing drivers seem to abhor a vacuum of racing. How else to explain it when even the best – and most well-paid – of them use their days off to go racing.

Hendrick Motorsports full-time Sprint Cup Series star Kasey Kahne, for example, will celebrate some time off when he returns to his home base of Charlotte, N.C. after leaving Kansas Speedway this weekend to do more, previously unscheduled racing.

In this case, he will drive the No. 00 JR Motorsports Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado in the event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Kahne, who will start Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants race from the front row after qualifying second fastest on Friday, said. “So far we haven’t done a whole lot. I plan on going over there this week and spending some time with the guys and learn a little bit more about our program and what we’re taking to Charlotte. But Charlotte is a really good track for me. I’ve always enjoyed racing there. I’ve run really well there.”

Kahne has run really well everywhere he’s driven a truck. Of the five races he’s started in the series, he’s won four (Darlington in 2004 and 2011, Homestead-Miami in 2004, and Rockingham in 2012).

In his only non-victorious start, Kahne finished second (Pocono in 2010).

Young Cole Custer has been driving the No. 00 Haas Automation sponsored truck.

Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. has asked Kahne to race in Charlotte for two reasons. First, he thinks Kahne, his teammate in the Hendrick Sprint Cup program will enjoy it.

“I think he is going to put a lot of pressure on himself,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’m not going to put any expectations on him. I just want him to have fun. He stepped up to drive the Truck. I just want him to go in there and have fun hopefully.”

The second reason is to help Custer and to inject some energy into the team.

“I think he is going to enjoy it and help that team especially being at the racetrack,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “As difficult as it is on Cole (Custer) to not be at the track and racing every opportunity he can get, it’s also as difficult for the team to sort of stay competitive and stay on the leading edge of the innovating things that are happening in the garage if you are not there every week. It will help them to be at the track and learn some more things that they can apply to some races they run later on in the year. Hopefully, they can learn and have a good time, run a good race and maybe win the race if they can. But also learn and help Cole down the road.”

Custer started nine races in 2014, winning once and posting six top-10 finishes. This season, he has started one race – at Martinsville – and finished 16th.

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