McMurray has tornado-ravaged Joplin on his mind Print
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Saturday, 28 May 2011 08:02
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 CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Jamie McMurray was confused, then stunned, when a friend in his hometown of Joplin, Mo., sent him a picture early in the week.
``I didn't even know what he had sent me,'' the Sprint Cup driver said Saturday. ``Then I did figure it out because one part left of my house was actually the address left on the front wall.''
Though McMurray and the rest of his family moved from Joplin to North Carolina more than a decade ago, he is taking an active role in raising money for the tornado-ravaged city. McMurray has partnered with primary sponsor Bass Pro Shops and Springfield, Mo.-based Convoy of Hope to help the victims of the monster tornado that packed 200 mph winds.
``Joplin, Mo.'' will appear in large letters across the side of his No. 1 Chevrolet during Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600.
``I think it's really hard for me to explain to you guys when you see the pictures to know what it used to look like,'' said McMurray, who indicated he last visited Joplin four or five years ago. ``It makes it more real for somebody when you know what the school used to look like or the hospital or that area and see how destroyed it is. It's incredible the damage the tornado did.''
McMurray said not only was the house he grew up leveled on May 22, the tornado ``took the whole neighborhood out.'' Also destroyed much of the high school McMurray attended. The death toll reached 132 on Friday.
``Everyone that I know, or at least friends talking to friends, I haven't known anyone that's lost their life,'' McMurray said. ``I have a lot of friends that have lost their homes.''
McMurray said crew members and sponsors have offered to assist in the relief efforts. McMurray and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris will fly to Morris' hometown of Springfield, Mo., on Thursday to collect food and supplies from Convoy of Hope. They're then scheduled to go to Joplin and will join the mayor and chief of police on a tour of McMurray's old neighborhood.
``I had a friend that lives there and has witnessed everything tell me that Joplin would recover. He just didn't know if it would recover in our lifetimes,'' McMurray said. ``I know there will be a big effort on my part over the next years to come to help with the hospital, the schools and the families.''
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STENHOUSE DEBUT: It took less than a week for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to rise above the logjam of NASCAR drivers looking to make an impression
Last weekend, the 23-year-old Stenhouse become the first non-Sprint Cup regular to win a Nationwide Series race. Stenhouse won the pole for Nationwide race at Charlotte on Saturday morning and on Sunday will make his Sprint Cup debut, driving the No. 21 Ford in place of Trevor Bayne.
``It's been crazy,'' Stenhouse said. ``To go out and win and then get your first Cup start is big.''
Stenhouse had to do some work on Thursday to make sure he'd be racing in NASCAR's longest race. Needing to qualify on speed for the part-time team and going last among 48 cars, Stenhouse turned in an eye-popping lap of 190.752 mph to give him the ninth starting position.
``I don't ever really get nervous in anything, but I really got nervous there,'' Stenhouse said of his qualifying lap.
Stenhouse's spot in Sprint Cup is expected to be short-lived. Bayne, the Daytona 500 winner, is scheduled to return next month at Michigan after being sidelined with an inflammatory condition.
Bayne said Stenhouse has been sensitive to the situation and believes Stenhouse will ``do a great job.''
``It's definitely not the way I wanted to get my first Cup start, but you've got to take what God lays out for you,'' Stenhouse said. ``(Bayne) is going to be here supporting it, so that makes it a little bit easier.''
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LEFT IN STITCHES: Paul Menard may have trouble walking, but it didn't prevent him from driving the fastest car in practice Saturday.
Menard, on crutches after needing 22 stitches to close a gash on his right foot, had both the fastest individual lap (188.745 mph) and the best average over 10 consecutive laps (185.732 mph).
``I think everything is good with the foot,'' Menard said. ``I'm just trying to keep off it. The car is really fast.''
Menard said he's not in pain from the cut he received on the dock at his house. But he's been forced to wear a larger shoe and there is some concern that sweating during NASCAR's longest race could loosen his stitches.
``The only thing is if it rips open and starts bleeding,'' Menard said.
Elliott Sadler will be on standby in case Menard can't finish Sunday, but Sadler didn't take laps in the car Saturday.
Kurt Busch had the second fastest car during the faster first practice session. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (187.162 mph) turned in the third-fastest lap.
Regan Smith's team had to change the transmission in the first practice Saturday, which will force the No. 78 to start from the rear of the field on Sunday.
Speeds slowed in the second practice as the track warmed. David Reutimann (184.483 mph) turned in the fastest lap.
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LUG NUTS: Carl Edwards seeks to become the eighth driver to sweep the All-Star and Coca-Cola 600 races. The others were Darrell Waltrip (1985), Davey Allison (1991), Dale Earnhardt (1993), Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2003), Kasey Kahne (2008) and Kurt Busch (2010). ... While Kyle Busch has won 97 races in NASCAR's top three circuits, he's yet to win a Sprint Cup race at Charlotte. Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin are also winless in Charlotte points races. ... Nationwide Insurance will again sponsor the Dash 4 Cash promotion that would pay a driver $1 million by winning all four Nationwide races at Daytona, Iowa, Richmond and Charlotte later this season. ... Blake Koch, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, was to drive a pink car in the Nationwide race Saturday. Also, the fall Nationwide race at Charlotte will have a pink theme and raise money for breast cancer research.
 

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Jeff Gordon #24 +400
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