It's a big deal to get to Victory Lane. But for a lot of drivers, there's something even better -- getting to Victory Lane with your kids.
Jamie McMurray got to do that for the first time last October, when he won the Sprint Cup race at Talladega and got to hug his son and daughter, now 3 and 1, in the celebration.
"I'd seen pictures for years of Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth and all the guys I've been friends with who had pictures with their family in Victory Lane," he said. "That was a great picture. One that I'll always cherish."
Now the veteran driver from Joplin, Mo., gets a chance to relive the moment when the series visits Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. He has had some of his best moments on restrictor-plate tracks like the 2.5-mile layout at Talladega. He made his first career Cup start there and has collected two wins, plus another at the Daytona 500.
"I tested at Talladega first. I just remember going there and knowing you could run wide open around the track," he said. "I had never been at a track where you could do that."
Like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and other top plate racers, McMurray has developed a knack for navigating the pack and tandem racing that superspeedways produce. He said he has his own way of thinking about that style of racing.
"I don't know that you go there in the mindset of winning," he said. "I always go with the mindset of running second and pushing someone to the win, and if the circumstances work out that you find yourself in the lead, that's great. You have to be very open-minded and willing to help, rather than get help. Everybody goes in wanting everybody to help them and not return the favor. I think it's a different mentality -- whoever's in front of you, work with them. It's definitely a different style of racing than you normally have."
McMurray, driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, sits 19th in the driver standings. He's winless, so he is not Chase eligible yet.
But he could easily be in the picture by Sunday.
As Kurt Busch said it after getting on the track for some real work at Indianapolis, the "This-is-Indy" moments are gone.
"This attempt is serious," he said. "It's an amazing challenge."
Busch posted a top speed of 220.644 mph during 66 laps Tuesday in a refresher course. He'll be back next week with the other rookies for more laps, but Busch is no ordinary Indy rookie. He's a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver who is trying to make the Indy-NASCAR double on May 25 -- racing in the Indy 500 during the day and the Coca-Cola 600 that night.
He'd be only the fourth driver to do it.
"Overall, it was a good day just to settle in with the team and advance further than rookie orientation," he said. "It felt good to give feedback to the team from the car and have them explain things to me how we're going to move forward."
In the refresher on Tuesday, Busch was required to demonstrate car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern.
"Now that all the newness and moments of smiling and 'This-is-Indy' are wearing off, that's when the serious hat goes on and we start to ramp up the program," he said.
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