(NASCAR)–He’s worn a lot of uniforms in his 19-year career at the top level of NASCAR racing, first with Chip Ganassi’s team, then with Jack Roush’s team, and then back to Ganassi.
We have been used to seeing Joplin native Jamie McMurray in a sponsor-bedecked fire suit. He’s worn the driver’s uniform when the green flag has dropped for 582 Cup starts, the fifth-most among drivers who ran fulltime last year (only Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson have more). Ganassi has offered him a car for next February’s Daytona 500 and for the all-star race a few days earlier. McMurray has not said if he will accept that offer.
But he’s trading the fireproof suit, shoes, and helmet for slacks and a sports coat because he’s going to do TV.McMurray will be an analyst for FOX Sports’ NASCAR Race Hub, considered the most-watched daily NASCAR show. He’ll also be in the booth for NASCAR Race Day, which precedes the network’s broadcasts of Cup races.
He’s not going into broadcasting completely inexperienced. He was in the booth for two lower-series races last year and was a guest analyst on “Race Hub” a couple of times later in the year. He admits he had thought about getting into broadcasting but he enjoyed it more than he thought he would. “It’s a whole new world, but that’s what I’m most excited about—the new challenge and discomfort that comes with doing something completely out of my element,” he said.
Kurt Busch has moved from Stewart-Haas Racing to take McMurray’s seat in what might be Busch’s last season as a full-time driver. Ganassi has an offer on the table for McMurray to stay with the team in an advisory role, although Ganassi has not described the specifics of the plan. He thinks McMurray can play an important role in the team’s future success. He says McMurray helped “bring a level of maturity to the organization when it was badly needed,” perhaps a reflection on McMurray’s pairing with Kyle Larson as a teammate in 2014, when Larson broke into Cup racing at the age of 21.
Larson calls him “an amazing friend and teammate” who has “taught me a bunch on and off the track.” He has told the NASCAR Wire Service, “I don’t think that there’s anybody else in the garage that could have taught me the things that he did and was as nice as he was to me as a young (driver) when I first came in. There’s no better teammate than Jamie McMurray.”
The car reportedly being prepared for McMurray to run at Daytona in February will carry the number 40, the number McMurray had when he won in only his second Cup start, filling in for Sterling Marlin at Charlotte in 2002 after Marlin had been injured a couple of weeks earlier in a crash at the Kansas Speedway.
The Daytona 500, perhaps McMurray’s last NASCAR Cup Series race, is February 17.
(INDYCAR)—It’s not just MIZZOU for Jay Frye. These days it’s increasingly MIZZOOM!
Frye, a former Missouri Tiger football player, is the new President of IndyCar. Fry had been the President of Competition for the series since 2015.
Frye’s elevation is a popular one among drivers and team owners alike. There had been some reports last summer that NASCAR was trying to lure him back; he had run NASCAR teams for fifteen years before moving to open-wheel racing in ’15.
One of the best known racing journalists covering IndyCar, Robin Miller, often has complained about weak leadership in Indy car. But he has written for RACER magazine, “It’s the best thing since the SAFER Barrier. Jay Frye has given IndyCar a plan, an identity and a reason to be optimistic. His ideas, honesty, willingness to listen and racing savvy did the impossible—won over the paddock, declawed the car owners, and made IndyCar appealing again.” Frye was in charge of the five-year effort to bring a new aero package to the cars that was a big success last year. He also has bene instrumental in the planning for the next generation of engines, of developing safety improvements for drivers, and reducing costs.
He’s not an office guy. He’s out among the people on pit road as well as in the stands. “Frye is easy to find at the racetrack and welcomes opinions and ideas. He doesn’t sneak anything past anybody, and that openness has earned him the most important thing in racing—respect across the board.
While others praise him for the work he’s done since ’15, he prefers to credit good people around him. And when the rumors were pretty hot last year that he was going back to NASCAR, his standard answer was “I’m happy with what I’m doing right here.”
Each time we’ve been at the Indianapolis Speedway he’s tried to carve out some time to talk to us. And somewhere in the discussion we have to talk about the football team or the football season. Barry Odom had him talk to the team a couple of years ago about life opportunities outside of football.
The first race of the new IndyCar season will be March 10 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Two weeks later, IndyCar makes its first appearance on the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas.
(Photo Credits: McMurray in his car–Jim Coleman; McMurray in sport coat: NASCAR Wire Service; Larson and McMurray–Getty Images/NASCAR; Frye–Rick Gevers)