SEVIERVILLE — Jamie McMurray is proud of his reputation as a clean racer, but the driver of the No. 1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet admits it’s a tougher task with certain competitors.
“I try to race everybody the same, but you race people they way they race you,” said McMurray, who was Bass Pro Shops on Wednesday to promote next month’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “There is a lot of give-and-take in our sport.
“Some guys when you catch them, they let you go. Some guys when you catch them, you race them really hard. You do the same thing. But, you have to be smart about it or you’ll get wrecked.”
His comments came on the heels of two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart’s frustration at Sonoma, followed by the declaration that he would spin out anyone in front of him who was blocking.
McMurray, 35, said there is a protocol for racing in the Sprint Cup Series, but he doesn’t totally agree with Stewart, especially at the road courses.
“Some guys are more aggressive than others and put themselves in worse situations than others,” said McMurray, a six-time winner in the Cup Series. “At Sonoma, it’s not always blocking. Sometimes there is nowhere to go and ahead of Tony, I was holding Brian (Vickers) up. I won’t call it blocking, it’s more like protecting your spot.”
For years, Bristol held the reputation as the roughest track on the circuit where the ‘bump-and-run’ was an acceptable tactic to use on anyone seen as blocking.
With a track resurfacing in 2007, the style of racing changed as the ‘World’s Fastest Half-Mile’ became a two-groove track. McMurray said that doesn’t mean it’s any easier when it comes to getting in the fast lane.
“Bristol used to be root the guy off the bottom and get underneath him,” he said. “Now, it’s about getting to the outside of the guy and getting around him. It’s flipped where the groove is up there. I don’t know if one is better than the other, it’s just different.”
One thing McMurray would like to be different is the performance of his No. 1 Chevrolet this season. Following a career year where McMurray won marquee events with the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the fall race at Charlotte, he is mired 27th in the latest point standings and has just two top-10 finishes in 17 races.
“We’ve blown up two engines and they don’t tend to blow up when you’re having a bad day,” he said. “At Charlotte, we’re leading the race when the engine blew. Plus we’ve had at least six flat tires.
“It seems like every single thing that can go wrong has gone wrong this season. I’m a big believer that sometimes you make your own luck, but you can’t fix things sometimes like flat tires. It’s like everything that went right last year, has gone wrong this year.”
Bristol would be a good place to turn the season around with a pair of third-place finishes including one in last year’s IRWIN Tools Night Race.
He calls Bristol one of his favorite tracks, although it’s still one of the most challenging drivers face every season. Sometimes, he explained, a driver even loses track of where he is.
“You have one of those long green flag runs, and you get delirious and you don’t know which straightaway you’re on, he said. “You have to get back to the flagstand to figure out which straightaway you’re on.
“To run well there, you have to unload with a good car. If your car drives well and has good speed, it’s hard to mess that up. If your car is slow, it’s hard to fix it. You either have it there or you don’t.”
n Bristol Dragway will host the Ford Blue Oval Bash car show and races this weekend.
Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday, with a test and tune session at 9 a.m.
Ford versus The World competition begins at 1:30 p.m., while the True Street cruise takes place at 2 p.m. Car show awards will be handed out at 4 p.m.
Gates open at 8 a.m. Sunday, with time trials for Ford-only cars in Super Pro, Pro and Sportsman divisions to start at 10 a.m. Bracket eliminations follow qualifying.
Tickets are $20 on both Saturday and Sunday, while a weekend pass is available for $30.
n Muddy Creek Raceway will host the Kawasaki Team Green Tennessee State Championship this weekend.
Friday is practice day from 9:30 a.m. til 3:30 p.m.
Saturday will be a full (2-moto) race for all classes paying points for the Mega Series and the Ultra Series.
Sunday will be the state championship (2-motos) that is also paying points for both series.
n Former NASCAR great Harry Gant is scheduled to make an appearance this Friday night at Kingsport Speedway.
The 18-time Cup Series winner will greet fans and sign autographs before racing action starts around 7 p.m. Crowds have grown throughout the season at the 3/8-mile concrete track which hosts the NASCAR All-American Weekly Series.
Classes scheduled to run on Friday are Late Models, Street Stock, Pure 4 and Legends.