The 400 mile race at Daytona is one of my favorite races of the year. I have a lot of good memories watching the summer classic. Witnessing Jimmy Spencer and John Andretti getting their first wins comes to mind. The 2007 races will always be my favorite.
I have been a Bobby Labonte fan for a long time. I was also a fan of Ryan Newman. Those two were really it. I didn’t have a No. 3 driver.
That all changed in October of 2002, during a race when Bobby was beaten by a rookie, driving in relief of Sterling Marlin in only his second Cup start. The young rookie was very humble, very emotional, and almost goofy. He demonstrated signs of modesty, unlike the cockiness I despise seeing in most drivers.
That driver was Jamie McMurray. I instantly became a McMurray fan. As Labonte's career crumbled, I had Jamie’s to fall back on and feel good about.
Shockingly, nearly five years went by without win number two. Jamie was the low man on the totem pole at Roush Racing, driving the No. 26 Ford.
Just a couple weeks before Jamie dominated the road course at Infineon Raceway, winning the pole and leading most laps, he ran out of fuel, robbing him of a good finish.
Jamie was excited to be going to Daytona. He had never won on a plate track, but still performed very well.
The Busch Series event from the night before had been cancelled due to rain, so an unprecedented “double header” was scheduled for Saturday.
I woke up the morning of the seventh in Roanoke Memorial Hospital. My wife who was due to give birth to our second child any day had some complications and was admitted to the hospital a few days before.
Needless to say, those were a long few days.
My wife was finally resting early that morning, and I was too nervous and scared to sleep. I watched the Busch race in the hospital room, soon thereafter it was showtime.
The doctors eventually decided to perform an emergency c-section. That was by far the longest day of my life. To make a long story short, the baby was fine. My wife had some problems waking up after the surgery and was placed in Intensive Care, but she awoke a few hours later.
The nurses brought our first-born son to the room at around 11 that evening. Not long after, my wife fell asleep due to the medications and anesthesia. It was just me and my little boy.
While holding him for the first time, I started flipping through the channels and came to TNT. Five laps to go and low and behold, there is Jamie McMurray, battling with Kyle Busch, who had won earlier in the Busch race.
It was one of the best finishes I had ever seen. Kyle Petty and Wally Dallnbach in the booth had already declared Kyle Busch the winner, but Jamie had won by inches. Every time I see the finish replayed on TV, I get chills.
I hope that someday my son will grow love this sport as much as I do. I can’t wait to show him a replay of this race and tell him the story of the first time I held him.