Steve Murgic of Rosemount, Minn., has won the NASCAR Winston Racing Series Mid-America Region championship for the second time. Murgic, a fierce competitor and kind-hearted neighbor who also won in 1992 at Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn., will bring home $39,500 from the national champions' awards banquet in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 6.
"We planned on having fun and winning a lot of races, but we had no hopes of winning a regional title," said the 41-year-old Murgic. "This one (championship) was less stressful probably because we'd been through it before and we kept a casual attitude about the championship since the beginning of the year. In 1992 if we had a bad night at the track we'd have to stack up on antacids."
Murgic has been behind the wheel of a Late Model since 1981. When the season began in April, the veteran driver's goal was simply to defend his track titles in both the Late Model and Modified divisions at the tight 1/4-mile asphalt track. While Murgic won the track championship in the Modified division, his performance in the Late Model class brought him the regional recognition.
Regardless of the number of competitors, Murgic was routinely the man to beat in the Late Model division, winning 13 of the 19 races he entered in NASCAR's 50th Anniversary season. His consistent top finishes even allowed him a few bobbles that no competitor wants, including a flat tire one week and a penalty in another.
"I come out because it's a challenge, and the prizes NASCAR and Winston put up for the short track drivers are good," said Murgic. "I like to keep my skills honed as a driver and keep my mind sharp in terms of technical aspects of preparing the vehicle."
Murgic may be like a hard-charging lion on the track, but he's just the opposite off of it. One of Raceway Park's most popular drivers, he routinely gives autographs to children and adults after each night of action.
Rarely does a night go by when Murgic isn't offering advice or parts to a fellow competitor before or after the races. "What you see is what you get with Steve," said Brad Miller of Rosemount, third in Late Model points and one of Murgic's closest friends. "He is one of the cleanest drivers at the track. He has a lot of respect for the other drivers."
"It's more of a challenge to pass cleanly," said a modest Murgic.
Miller also knows all too well about Murgic's generosity, both at and away from the race track. Late this season Murgic started a fund for 4-year-old Victoria Brenner, of Chaska, Minn., who lost three limbs in a lawn mowing accident.
Murgic, who also wears a prosthetic leg, issued a challenge to other drivers, track officials and fans to contribute to the fund.
"I don't like anything happening to children. It's one of those things where I've got a soft spot for children and decided to do anything to help," said Murgic.
Murgic and other drivers contributed their late season winnings, and track owner John Hellendrung and fans also contributed in excess of $5,000 to help Victoria. A spirited competitor and gentle neighbor, that's another championship for Steve Murgic.
Source: NASCAR Online