Jamie McMurray bested fellow rookie Greg Biffle to earn the Raybestos Rookie of the year honors for 2003. Although Biffle won an event (Pepsi 400) and McMurray did not, more consistent finishes and a panel vote helped McMurray beat Biffle by 33 ...
Jamie McMurray bested fellow rookie Greg Biffle to earn the Raybestos Rookie of the year honors for 2003. Although Biffle won an event (Pepsi 400) and McMurray did not, more consistent finishes and a panel vote helped McMurray beat Biffle by 33 points.
"At the same time, there was a big sigh of relief for me. It's ironic, because when they told me that, we had just had a bad pit stop. We came in the pits third and went out sixth and then they left a lugnut off so I went all the way back to 20th. I was so fired up to get back to the front that I put that out. I didn't even think about it until it was over with."
McMurray, the 27-year-old Joplin, MO native, turned heads when sitting in for an injured Sterling Marlin in 2002, won at Charlotte in just his second Winston Cup start. He secured the No. 42 ride with Ganassi racing for 2003, where he scored 12 top-ten results on his way to rookie of the year honors.
Besides end of the year statistics determining the rookie title there is also a panel vote as to how rookies handled themselves on-track and with the media. McMurray's popularity with journalists and easy-going attitude are something he doesn't want to loose, "I'm just me. I don't try to be anyone else. I say the way I feel and I think people like that - just being honest and not trying to put on a show or trying to be somebody else."
Some might say keeping his ego in check will be hard; he already has two entries into the NASCAR history books. Besides being the 2003 rookie, he also set the modern-era record of the quickest driver to find victory lane in Winston Cup racing.
He swears success is not going to change him.
"Everyone told me growing up don't change, just be yourself," said McMurray. "I think I've done a really good job of that, but you have to change in order to accept this life. Even racing in the truck series or Busch Series full time, it gives you a good idea of what to expect in Winston Cup, but your time is so much more valuable when you get to Cup.
Sponsors use you more. That's what they need to do, but your time.... They fly you everywhere. You dread having to fly to the west coast, but at the same time I appreciate that. That means they want to use you. They feel like they can use your face, your name, and your personality to help sell their product.
"I love it the way it is, and I don't want them to change anything, but I understand now what they were talking about."
Next year, the dreaded yellow rookie stripe will be off his car, and McMurray can start working on new stats to add to an already impressive resume. Running a limited Busch schedule and full Cup this year was draining, but for McMurray it was all worth it.
"This is what I've wanted to do since I was eight," said McMurray, who won two Busch races in the No. 1 Dodge. "I'm thrilled the way it is right now, and I'm just happy to be here. The only difference would be I wish I could have won the Southern 500 and the Brickyard 400. That would have been perfect, but other than that there's no complaints at all."