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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 93: Jamie McMurray on how driver rivalries have changed

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Jamie McMurray says rivalries haven’t disappeared from NASCAR, they just are getting harder to discern.

As a guest on a recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who entered Cup in 2002, talked about how his generation had changed their approaches on the track as their lives changed off it (noting “a different vibe in the bus lot” with many of his peers having kids).

“We have learned retaliation isn’t necessarily the best way to get back at someone,” McMurray said. “When I first started racing, some people wrecked people intentionally. Everyone is smarter now. Odds are if you wreck somebody, they will wreck you back the next week, and you didn’t gain anything by it.

“So for the most part, when you want to get back at someone, you race them differently, you block on pit road. There are things that can happen that maybe fans don’t see that hurt the other guy. I feel like those two drivers know why it’s happening and the reason behind it, but it’s not one of those things where you get out and throw your helmet on pit road.”

McMurray, who turned 41 in June, cited the aftermath of a recent run-in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Kurt Busch (a former teammate at Roush Fenway Racing) as an example.

“At Indy, I made it three wide on a restart,” McMurray said. “At Pocono, (Busch) came up to me and said something that didn’t go well. I texted him after the race and said, ‘Look I’m sorry, I didn’t handle that the right way. I’ve been friends with you for 15 years.’ Then we texted back and forth, and he’s like, ‘Man, it’s just part of racing.’ He was just mad. You definitely handle things differently when you’re 40 than you do when you’re 25. You grow up and learn from your mistakes.”

McMurray also sees differences in how the younger crop of drivers led by Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are choosing to race veterans.

“I feel like all of those guys were really smart in that they gave a lot initially,” he said. “Once you give in one or two times, I think the guy who’s been there a while knows that, and then it’s all equal. Ryan and Chase and Larson are all really smart racers. They’ve all done a really good job of not poking the bear. They’re really fun to race with now.”

During the podcast, McMurray also opened up on:

–Why he recently posted biometric data comparing his heart rate from a marathon bike ride to a Cup race at New Hampshire;

–The fitness trend in NASCAR;

–Why he enjoys observing social media but doesn’t participate in it;

–How he’d like NASCAR to open up its rulebook and lessen punishments.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The free subscriptions will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

Martinsville Truck race postponed to Sunday after Cup race

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The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck race at Martinsville has been postponed until Sunday afternoon, following the Cup race.

Ben Rhodes led the field to green 2:05 p.m. and held the lead until Mike Senica stalled on the track. Rhodes led the first 23 laps until precipitation red flagged the event at 2:17.

The Truck race will be televised on FS1.

Martin Truex Jr. sweeps Martinsville Cup practice

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After posting the fastest single lap and quickest 10-lap average in the first practice, Martin Truex. Jr. also topped the fastest lap chart in final practice for the STP 500 with a speed of 95.415 mph.

Also repeating his performance from the first practice, Brad Keselowski was second on the leaderboard. Keselowski was fast on long runs with the quickest 10-lap average of 94.579 mph.

Sophomore Daniel Suarez was notably fast. His lap of 95.588 mph was third on the chart.

Kyle Busch (95.122) and Ryan Newman (94.756) rounded out the top five.

Jimmie Johnson (93.831) was hoping to carry over momentum from last week’s top 1o at Auto Club, but struggled to find single lap speed. He landed 28th on the speed chart.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel hopped entering turn three with 33 minutes remaining. He rolled out a backup car and will start at the back regardless of where he qualifies.

Click here for the full final practice times.

History looms for the Wood Brothers

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Glen Wood first came to Martinsville, Virgina in November 1953, making the short 30-minute drive from Stuart for his NASCAR debut in a family owned car. Nearly 65 years later, the famed Woods Brothers are still racing the iconic No. 21 on the half-mile bullring.

The torch has since been passed to Glen’s sons, but the history remains.

“Our dad came here and raced,” Eddie Wood said in a press release before the STP 500. “He raced here in the fifties and it’s just a special, special place and knowing that the Ford Fusions ran really well last year here that gives you a lot of confidence. I’m sure it gives Paul (Menard) a lot of confidence, but it’s just a special, special place.”

Last fall, Ryan Blaney returned the 21 to the top 10 on the team’s home track for the first time in 12 years. He finished eighth in the First Data 400. This year, Blaney turned the car over to Menard and as the series comes to Martinsville for the first of two races this year, the legacy continues.

“The pressure is all what you make of it,” Menard said. “I know a couple things – I’ve got a great team behind me. We’re gonna have a fast Ford and we’re gonna have a lot of fans cheering on the 21 car, so you can think about that every waking second you’re up here, or you can go to work and do your business. It’s obviously an honor to drive this car and to be a part of the Wood family driving the 21 at Martinsville, and I’m really gonna think about that when I put my firesuit on, but once you get the helmet on it’s all business.”

The gravity of protecting the Wood Brothers’ legend at Martinsville is increased by the fact that this week marks NASCAR’s first short track race of the season and a return to its grassroots. It is easy to feel the history of racing on this little track nestled in rural Virginia—not only for the iconic team, but the entire field.

“It’s getting back to grassroots,” Menard said. “Over half the guys, probably more than that, started racing at short tracks with late models somewhere. We were running 25 laps back then versus 500 now, but the stage racing is kind of like a couple of heat races before the A Main, so you try to get your points when you can and be smart about things when you can and let it rip when you can.”

“You can race here year after year, race after race and there’s no way anybody can mess this race up,” Eddie Wood said. “This is just always a great race because it’s tight and it’s grassroots, it’s NASCAR roots.”

The STP 500 is not just another race for the Wood Brothers. On a track that puts a premium on mechanical grip and driver ability, as opposed to flat out horsepower, Menard has greater control over his fate. That is both good and bad news, because a milestone has been within reach for the past 27 races –  the team’s 100th win.

“It would be huge,” Menard said of the 100th win. “I’ll take it anywhere. We started at Daytona and didn’t get it there, and we’ll keep working until we get it. Martinsville would be a huge one for us, obviously, and if we do that, we’ll have another one for the museum down the road.”

Ben Rhodes grabs Martinsville Truck pole

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Ben Rhodes laid down a lap of 95.942 mph in the final round of qualification for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck series at Martinsville to win his third career pole.

Teammate Matt Crafton will line up beside him on the outside of the front row with a lap of 95.704 mph.

Grant Enfinger qualified third to give ThorSports a clean sweep of the top spots.

Round two: Kyle Benjamin was fastest 95.830 mph. With time running off the clock, Myatt Snider (94.984) bumped Harrison Burton (94.770) out of the top 12.

Round one: Todd Gilliland topped the chart with a speed of 95.213 mph. He will have to drop to the back to start the race because of an engine change, so he did not attempt to post a time in the second round.

Click here for the race lineup.

Weather permitting, the green flag will wave over the field at 2 p.m.