By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sunday’s Daytona 500 will mark the final start of Jamie McMurray’s NASCAR career, dating back to 2002, when he filled in for Sterling Marlin in the final six races of the season.
Though it’s likely the final time he’ll climb behind the wheel, McMurray notes that he won’t have any overwhelming emotions about the day, due in part to having a farewell of sorts at last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“This is super different than Homestead was, knowing that it was my last race full time. It’s a much different vibe here,” McMurray said.
“Coming down here, it’s very laid back. A plate race is so much different than you have at any other track, the fact that I got to run the Clash and we have the 150s before it. It’s three races, not just your last one, so it’s a lot different weekend. I’m looking forward to the 500 and what comes after that.
“My emotions were really all at Homestead. This has been really just a celebration more than having emotions. I’m going to miss the racing part of it but not all the rest that goes with it. As far as driving, yeah, I’ll miss all of that. I’ll still be at the racetrack; all my friends are here. It’s not like I’m giving up all of it, I’m just giving up the driving part.”
Sunday will mark his 583rd Cup Series start, claiming seven wins along the way with Chip Ganassi Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing, including both the 2010 Daytona 500 and 2010 Brickyard 400. Once the checkered flag flies, McMurray will follow the path of retired drivers before him as he moves over to the television side of things with FOX Sports.
While he doesn’t have any other races on his radar in the foreseeable future and is focused on his television career after Daytona, McMurray said in Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day that he hasn’t ruled out a return to the cockpit if the right opportunity presents itself.
“If an opportunity comes up,” he said. “I have talked with Chip (Ganassi) if I would do Sonoma or Watkins Glen; the road courses really interest me. Or maybe doing something in a sports car. I don’t know or have anything planned.
“I’m looking forward to the TV side of things. It’s such a different perspective than when you’re driving every week. Your emotions are so much different. There’s no anxiety when the race is over about heading into the next week about what you need to do different or better. I’m excited about the race; this has been a fun few weeks leading up to it and I’m looking forward to being in the studio next Friday, Saturday and Sunday with my next team.”
McMurray will roll off 16th on Sunday after his top-10 finish in Thursday night’s Gander RV Duel at Daytona.