McMurray wants precious moment at BMS

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   Jamie McMurray hails from southern Missouri, a place famous to many for being headquarters for the Precious Moments collectibles. McMurray was testing his Busch Series car at Bristol Motor Speedway Tuesday searching for his own precious moment in the upcoming Food City 250.
   Riding eighth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings, McMurray wheeled his No. 27 Williams Travel Centers Chevy around the high banks looking to improve on a 26th place finish earlier this season at BMS.
   "We have run well here, we just can't finish," stated McMurray during a break from the test session. "It's hard to survive and finish here. It's a lot of fun in that it's different from anywhere else we go. It reminds me a lot of I-70 Raceway (in Odessa, Mo.) except it's a lot faster. It's I-70 times two.
   "It's a fun place to come to, especially when you come here at night. All the drivers like to run at night. I've been looking forward to coming back here. It's incredible when you come here and get in the infield and look up. It's amazing to see all the people and their reactions when something happens on the track."
   McMurray has a varied background that includes four United States go-kart titles, a track championship at I-44 Speedway at Lebanon, Mo. and stints in the ReMax Challenge and Craftsman Truck Series before coming to the Busch tour.
   "It's been a long time since I raced go-karts," recalled McMurray. "This year and last year, when I raced the Busch Series is the first time I've raced a full season in a touring series since go-karts. Go karts was a fun way to race until I got to race stock cars.
   "Since I moved to the Busch Series, I've had to learn both the Busch cars and the race tracks. When you have to do both of those, it makes it extremely tough. It seems like every race track, there is somebody in the series that runs well at it. The Busch cars react somewhat similar at all the tracks but the tracks are all different. It's odd when you go back the fall from the spring, you wouldn't believe how much the race tracks change."
   McMurray has adapted well in second visit to tracks this season. Case in point, he finished 11th in the season opener at Daytona, but improved to a fifth place in Daytona's July event. Overall, the best performances have come on flat tracks, where McMurray has posted seven of his nine top ten finishes this season.
   "We run really well on flat tracks," admitted McMurray. "Our program there is as strong as about anyone. On the banked tracks, I don't think we are that far off. Michigan and here (Bristol) are the two we are really worried about, but we've had a good test here and are taking a good car to Michigan. We've been a top ten car since the first Nashville race.
   "Our team is working well together. Our qualifying is not all that great, but we're running about 5th to 8th in all the races. You hear about chemistry. It's hard to explain how it works or why it works, but it just happens. I feel like we have that right now, where everything on the team is working smooth."
   His best finish of 2002 has been a fourth at Nazareth, a race marred by serious injuries to his Brewco Motorsports teammate Jeff Purvis. McMurray and Purvis had developed a solid working relationship before the accident. Now he is sharing information with current No. 37 driver Kevin Lepage, the 1998 winner of the Food City 250.
   "Kevin and I some weeks have been close on set-ups and some weeks we will be way off," admitted McMurray. "Our cars are closer to being the same when we go to the race track than they have been in the past. That shows as the last four or five races, we have finished within a spot or two of each other. That kind of shows our cars are closer on set-ups and are very comparable.
   "Last year, if we ran good they wouldn't and if they ran good we wouldn't. This year, our whole deal is so much stronger than last year. I didn't talk to Kevin before I got here, but we have ran well here. It hasn't shown in our qualifying and race results. But, in Happy Hour and the way I feel about this place we should be strong. The team ran well here when Casey (Atwood) drove for them."
   McMurray's Busch debut occured in Tennessee, a less than sparking 36th place finish at Memphis. On the opposite end of the state in a couple of weeks, McMurray feels his car, which is powered by engines from Bill Davis Racing, has a legitimate chance to visit Bristol's victory lane.
   "We feel like we have had a couple of opportunities to win races," said McMurray. "It's hard to beat Scott Riggs, Jason Keller and Greg Biffle. They are running first and second every week and are on the top of their game. For us to outrun those guys, we have to really have a great day and they be a little off. I feel like if we have a great day, we have a chance.
   "This place is all about luck and the way our luck has been lately with good pit strategy I feel like we have a chance. Last year, it seemed like we couldn't do anything right. This year, it seems it all is working in our favor."
   Also testing on Tuesday at BMS in search of their own precious moments were Kerry Earnhardt in the No. 12 Bradshaw-Fitz Racing Chevy and Coy Gibbs in a No. 20 Busch Series Pontiac owned by his father, Winston Cup owner Joe Gibbs.