McMurray's Daytona win was life-changing

February, 20, 2010
02/20/10
3:12
PM ET

FONTANA, Calif. -- "There's no crying in baseball," as we all know from Tom Hanks' famous movie line, but crying is OK in NASCAR.

That's what the drivers say about Jamie McMurray's tearful moment after winning the Daytona 500 last week.

"You guys constantly ask us what it would mean to win the Daytona 500," said Tony Stewart, who still is trying to achieve that goal. "What I saw in Jamie is pretty much how we all would feel.

"His reaction after the race said it all. And it's nice to see somebody like him win it. Jamie is one of those genuinely nice guys. He's always smiling and he's always fun and good-natured around everybody."

And McMurray showed all the emotions after the Daytona 500, a moving moment that illustrated how much his life had turned around.

"That was just Jamie being Jamie," Jeff Burton said Friday. "Matt Kenseth [the 2009 Daytona 500 winner] cried in Victory Lane last year, too, and he's a robot."

Kevin Harvick, the 2007 Daytona 500 winner, knows no one can act like a robot after winning the Daytona 500.

"This is an emotional sport," Harvick said Friday. "Put yourself in Jamie's shoes. He went to the Daytona 500 trying to prove he should be in Cup racing, and he won it. That's pretty emotional."

And Harvick is a guy who once jokingly said he didn't want Hillary Clinton to become president because "I don't want my president to cry."

Other than Mark Martin, still waiting to win a Daytona 500 after 26 tries, you couldn't find a more popular winner than McMurray.

Other drivers like it when one of their fellow competitors overcomes adversity. The reason is obvious. If they're ever in the same position, they hope they will have the same outcome.

And they all know McMurray's career changed dramatically one week ago.

"Jamie was really nervous about what his future held," Burton said. "When I talked to him a few months ago he didn't know if he would have a job. Now look at him."

He's the Daytona 500 winner who starts on the pole Sunday for the Auto Club 500.

"It's been wonderful, honestly, the best week of my life," McMurray said Friday. "Well, next to my wedding day, but this is a close second."

Harvick had some words of wisdom for McMurray before he started his celebration week.

"The only thing I said to him is enjoy it and take it all in," Harvick said. "It all goes away after this week, but it's something they can't take away from you no matter how good or bad your season is."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McMurray's teammate at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, put things in perspective on how meaningful the victory was for McMurray and the No. 1 Chevy team.

"I would love to win it," Montoya said. "But if you asked which team needed it more, the 1 car or the 42 [Montoya's car], it was the 1 car. For Jamie, the sponsors, everybody, it was huge."

All those things ran through McMurray's mind while he stood in Victory Lane, going from the odd man out at Roush Fenway Racing to the winner of NASCAR's Super Bowl.

And the tears flowed. Some people criticized him for it. I would have criticized him if he didn't cry.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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