There is nothing that stirs the hearts of sports fans quite like a dramatic upset or a heart-warming, feel-good story.
Especially when the athlete that pulls it off is a class act and one of the sport’s good guys.
Jamie McMurray produced that kind of moment not once, not twice, but three times in 2010.
McMurray entered 2010 as a journeyman driver who had won a few races, but who mostly had been disappointing in what was supposed to be a promising career.
McMurray was the guy who was seemingly always coming up short. Just short of winning. Just short of making the Chase. Just short of fulfilling his vast potential.
McMurray changed all that in a hurry in 2010, opening the season by winning the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest race. Not only was it the first race of the season, but also McMurray won it in his first race after being released from Roush Fenway Racing and being reunited with team owner Chip Ganassi, whom he drove for at the start of his Cup career.
Though McMurray’s thrilling triumph — he beat Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle on a green-white-checkered restart for the win — was surprising, it McMurray’s overwhelming emotion that captured the hearts of fans and made it such a popular victory.
McMurray broke down in victory lane, and then again a couple of hours later in postrace interviews.
“When I was sitting in the car, I was like, ‘Whew, I don't want to look at [my dad] before I do my TV interview because I know I'm going to break down,’” McMurray said.
“You know, my dad and my wife, I mean, when you … you know, you do something that you love, you know, you want to share that with the people you love,” McMurray said, choking back tears and struggling to compose himself.
“You can see how I feel.”
It was one of the most popular wins in years throughout the garage. Biffle, McMurray’s teammate at Roush Fenway, was happy to see his friend win.
“I'm so happy for him,” Biffle said. “I went straight to victory lane after I got done with my interviews. I felt like I was a big part of getting him up there.
“It was pretty cool. I feel like I'm one of the guys that helped him get his first Daytona 500.”
McMurray wasn’t done there, however. As if to prove his Daytona 500 win wasn’t a fluke, he also won NASCAR’s second-biggest race – the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And he wasn’t done there, either.
He capped his storybook season by winning again in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the site of his first career Cup win in 2002.
After his win at Charlotte, the gracious McMurray was again emotional.
“I wanted people to understand that sometimes you see people's emotions on TV, and I don't know, I just … I just wanted it to be understood that after the season that I had, or the last four years I had, I found the power of prayer and that it's something that I really believe in,” he said. “ And when I got to victory lane in Daytona that's what I was thinking about. I was crying, obviously because I was happy, but also because you feel like a prayer has been answered.”
SceneDaily.com • Darlington Raceway president receives Palmetto Patriot Award