Gatorade Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway holds special memories for veteran driver Jamie McMurray. While helping a group of local middle school students make some memories of their own there Tuesday during a visit to NASCAR's Most Competitive track to promote the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, he couldn't help but reminisce about his most thrilling moment in racing and look forward to perhaps making another one.
McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, first visited Talladega's Victory Lane in 2009 but it was a return trip there in the fall of 2013 that will forever live in his mind as the best of his career. That day his wife, Christy, was able to bring both their children, Carter and Hazel, to Victory Lane to celebrate with his father for the very first time, and it was an experience McMurray will never forget.
As he assisted 16 leadership students from nearby White Plains Middle School (Anniston, Ala.) as they painted a stock car in Victory Lane on Tuesday, he couldn't help but again think about Carter (now 4) and his daughter, Hazel (now 2). With input from McMurray, the students had a blast producing their own bright, colorful special paint scheme with their handprints, brushes and creativity for the stock car, which will be on display during the Alabama 500 Race Weekend upcoming Oct. 23-25.
"It was actually fun to get to do that with them," McMurray said of helping paint the race car. "I told them to just 'go at it.' And, they did. As we were putting gloves and aprons on, I was thinking about my kids and how much they would like to participate in actually getting to paint a car. So it was pretty cool to see them have at it. I remember the last time I was in this Victory Lane here two years ago with my family, and enjoying it with my son who was so happy. It will always be one of the biggest wins of my career because of it."
He packed a lot into his visit to Talladega Superspeedway as part of the Chase Across North America, NASCAR's promotional tour for its upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff system which gets under way this weekend in Chicago.
During the rest of the day, McMurray spent time with representatives from various NBC affiliates from around the region for NBC Day (NBC & NBC Sports broadcasts the second half of the 2015 NASCAR season), guest-hosted a midday show on a local sports talk radio station (WJOX), and met with other media members to talk about The Chase – and specifically Talladega's Alabama 500, the final race in the thrilling Contender Round in which the field will be cut from 12 to eight drivers at the checkered flag.
McMurray has recorded seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) wins in his career that started in 2002. In 26 career Talladega starts, has recorded six top-five finishes and seven top-ten finishes, along with his two wins. He enters the Chase seeded 12th, the top driver in the point standings without a victory this year. He has two top-five's and seven top-10 results thus far in 2015. Most significantly, however, he is set in the Chase field for the first time ever since its inception in 2004.
"I'm excited to get to be a part of it," McMurray said. "Everybody wants to make The Chase so you'll have a shot to contend for a championship. To be able to make it is high on my list (of career accomplishments.)"
With those two Talladega wins to his credit, McMurray admits he feels good about coming to the 2.66-mile mammoth venue as part of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"Talladega is one of my favorite tracks to get to race at," McMurray said. "I look forward to getting back here. I've always been really comfortable at Daytona and Talladega, but Talladega more so just because I've finished better, and I've run better here. It certainly is a confidence booster the fact that I've won a couple of races here. We feel really good about getting back here."
The Alabama 500, part of a race weekend that will also include the fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race, will be the sixth race in the 2015 installment of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It gets a 1:30 p.m. CDT start on Sunday, Oct. 25.
The fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola gets the green flag at noon CDT on Saturday, Oct. 24. Talladega Superspeedway is pleased to again offer greatly reduced ticket prices for kids 12-and-under, including free seating with the purchase of an adult ticket in certain grandstand areas while supplies last.