McMurray picking up where Atwood left off By Marty Smith CENTRAL CITY, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2001) -- As Jamie McMurray rolled his Craftsman Truck Series machine out to pit road last February at Daytona, the young driver caught a glimpse of Casey...
McMurray picking up where Atwood left off
By Marty Smith
CENTRAL CITY, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2001) -- As Jamie McMurray rolled his Craftsman Truck Series machine out to pit road last February at Daytona, the young driver caught a glimpse of Casey Atwood and found himself quite envious, not of Atwood's superstar status or speedy success, but of his equipment.
"He just had awesome stuff," McMurray said. "I remember sitting there dreaming I'd have that kind of equipment one day, and wondering what I could do with it and when it might happen to me."
Now, less than a year later Atwood has bequeathed that equipment to, you guessed it, McMurray.
Starting February at Daytona McMurray will take the reins of Brewco Motorsports' No. 27 Chevrolet, the ride Atwood made quite famous during a stellar two-year run in the Busch Series. During that span, he notched a pair of wins and four poles.
By all counts, McMurray should be an ample replacement. After joining forces with TKO Motorsports midway through the summer of 2000 as a relative unknown, he burst onto the racing landscape with two poles and four top-10 finishes in just seven races. He sat on the pole and finished sixth in his first race in the No. 41 Dodge, and were it not for sponsorship issues, he may never have left.
"It's amazing how much my career has changed since July when I got in the 41 truck," McMurray said. The first race out in the 41 truck we sat on the pole and ran sixth at Michigan, then went to Indy and qualified fifth and finished third.
"Then we went to Nashville the next week and qualified on the pole again. That's an incredible race team they have over there. More than likely if I didn't come to (Brewco), I'd have stayed with them. They just didn't have a sponsor when I left. It was tough to stay with a team like that, but they have an awesome race team."
Brewco wasn't McMurray's only option, but it was the most appealing. He had plenty of folks courting him, but when Brewco came along all McMurray had to do was think back to Daytona.
"I had been talking to some Busch teams and Truck teams and visited some shops trying to figure out what I wanted to do," McMurray said. "I listened to what a lot of people had to say, and the biggest reason I chose (Brewco) was the people that work here.
"Everybody just seems like regular down-to-earth people. They reminded me of the people I grew up with. It wasn't that the other teams weren't, but I just had a special feeling when I left here that day, and I knew it's where I needed to be."
He's adjusted well thus far, having already posted the second quickest time in Busch Series testing at Talladega earlier this month. Only Winston Cup veteran Joe Nemechek was faster.
Despite Brewco's former success, McMurray is content with humble goals. His largest adjustment doesn't even entail asphalt, concrete, rubber or sheet metal.
"Casey had a great year in '99 and ran well this year, too, but that doesn't add any pressure on me," he said. "I'm a little nervous, but I've moved to Central City and I come into the shop every day and hang out all day until 5 or 6 at night to better myself and get to know these guys.
"The fact that there's a sponsor is new to me. I've never had one before. I put a lot of pressure on myself in that regard, but I think the racing is just going to happen. This is a great race team, so I think if we can have a little bit of luck and not tear too much stuff up, we'll be okay. It'll take some getting used to, but if we can keep our nose clean and finish the first four or five races, we'll be up there." nascar.com