Jamie McMurray doesn't want to see NASCAR morph into WWF.
But McMurray thinks the fines NASCAR levied this week on fellow Sprint Cup drivers Casey Mears and Marcus Ambrose for exchanging punches after Saturday night's race at Richmond were excessive.
Ambrose was fined $25,000 and Mears $15,000. Both were placed on probation through May 28. Wasn't it just a few years ago that NASCAR issued a dictum, telling the drivers "to have at it"?
"I hoped that NASCAR would just let that go," McMurray said of the Mears-Ambrose skirmish. "They have preached to all of us that they want us to be who we are, and I think it's good that you have some characters in the sport.
"Everyone has a moment that they're extremely upset, but . . . I think you can count on one hand the guys that would actually throw a punch."
McMurray, who is from Joplin, Mo., is building a house near Charlotte, N.C., and when he arrived at the construction site, that's all the workers were asking him about.
"I think it's great," McMurray said. "I don't want to see anyone get punched, but . . . how many years ago has it been since someone actually punched someone? It's got everyone talking about the sport, and I think it's good you see those guys' passion.
"Casey was so mad when you look in that video there and kind of pushing Marcos. I don't know, I was really hoping that NASCAR was going to let it go or that the fines would be less because that's huge . . . $25,000 is massive. You won't see it happen again because I think people will think about that and be like, 'It's not worth $25,000 for me to express exactly how I feel at this time.' "
Certainly there have been times in McMurray's 13-year Sprint Cup career when he thought about throwing a punch but held back.
"There's probably been times, yeah, when I wanted to do that," said McMurray, 37. "It's been a long time since I've had that kind of anger inside of me. If it was happening every week, I think it would be different, but if they hadn't fined those guys, I don't think it would have happened again for a long time. There's maybe five guys who are willing to do that, and it takes both those guys getting together on the same night and being extremely upset before it would happen.
McMurray is not sure Mears had any intention of throwing a punch when he confronted Ambrose.
"Casey went over there and was wanting to get his point across," McMurray said. "I don't think he had any . . . when he got hit, you could tell he was like, 'I can't believe I just got punched.' . . . I don't think anyone had that mind-set going into it."
McMurray, who finished 13th at Richmond International Speedway, enters Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway 19th in the points standings but could stake a claim in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format with a victory at a track where he won last October and in the fall of 2009.
The victory last year was especially meaningful because it was the first time McMurray enjoyed a Victory Lane celebration with his two children, Carter, 3, and Hazel, 1.
"I've seen pictures for years of Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth and all the guys that I've been friends with, had pictures with their families in Victory Lane," McMurray said, "and it was just a really special day. That was a great picture, one that I'll always cherish."
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