Photo: Brian Murphy

Journey reached: Stewart-Haas Racing member summits Mt. Rainier

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INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Murphy had not planned to wear the GPS device, but his mother insisted.

She wanted to follow her son’s ascent to Mt. Rainier’s summit at 14,410 feet.

“That last 1,500 feet was extremely emotional knowing that my mom was basically with me, team members and family members were with me in a sense,” said Murphy (far left in the photo above), a fabricator for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was his first day back at the track since reaching Mt. Rainier’s summit last week. The climb completed a year-long journey of preparation that included training from SHR’s athletic department.

Brian Murphy

“This was a brand new thing,” Murphy told NBC Sports. “I was very nervous. Everybody being there to support me and make sure I had the confidence to do this was very important.”

It was only two years ago that climbing was even a consideration. A friend encouraged Murphy to join him on a hike during a race weekend at Bristol.

“When I got to the top, it was just an incredible feeling, great views,” Murphy said. “It turned into a challenge on how much I could take both mentally and physically.

“Now it’s gone into mountaineering.”

View from about 10,200 feet on Mt. Rainier. (Photo by Brian Murphy)

Murphy’s Mt. Rainier trip took two weeks. He went to the Camp Muir base camp at about 10,200 feet and spent a night there. He returned to lower ground for about three days to ensure his body’s recovery before going back up. Murphy, his group and guides returned to base camp and spent another day there before moving up.

After reaching high camp at 11,200 feet, the group’s plans changed on climbing the summit. With a storm forecasted later, the group woke up at 11 p.m. and left camp at midnight. They reached the summit at 5:15 a.m., greeted by wind guests that Murphy said were 40-60 mph.

“It was a blizzard up there,” he said. “The last 500 feet, the weather just changed dramatically. It was impressive to see. It was awesome.

“The whole trip went really well. At the end of it, the mountain tested us, so it wasn’t just an easy thing to get up there. The preparation, the help from everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and the racing community as a whole got me to a level where this whole journey was much easier than I thought it was going to be.”

Camp Muir at more than 10,000 feet on Mt. Rainier. Photo by Brian Murphy

Murphy understood the challenges of the Washington mountain. According to the Mt. Rainier National Park website, 47.7% of the 10,762 climbers in 2018 reached the summit. One climber died in a rockfall in late May.

When Murphy reached the summit, he couldn’t see much because of the weather and it was still dark.

“Making it to the top was the goal,” he said. “The view wasn’t necessarily the goal. It was the journey up, the test. I did that. There definitely is a piece of me that wants to go back up there to see what I missed.”

Once he reached the top, he was taken back to his racing experience.

“You get up there and you’re celebrating with all of your guides and the other couple of people that made it, and it was a lot like winning a race, the same type of feeling,” Murphy said. “You work so hard with these people to make sure you get there safe and to reach that goal against all odds was amazing.”

Now, Murphy ponders going to Alaska to summit Denali, which at 20,310 feet is the highest peak in North America. 

“I know coming back that I crushed Rainier,” Murphy said, “and I’m only looking up.”

Kaz Grala subs for Natalie Decker in Talladega Truck race

Kaz Grala
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Natalie Decker has not been medically cleared to compete in Saturday’s Truck Series race at Talladega (1 p.m. ET on FS1) and will be replaced by Kaz Grala in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet the team announced Thursday.

Decker withdrew from last weekend’s race at Las Vegas after she was not medically cleared shortly before the race. She was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker tweeted Saturday that she was flying home where “more tests (would be) run so they can further evaluate and diagnose.”

No further details about Decker’s condition have been announced.

“We are thankful that Kaz is able to fill in for Natalie this weekend and appreciate him working with our team,” team general manager Cody Efaw said in a press release. “We wish Natalie the best as she works to be as healthy as possible to return to racing.”

Grala will make his first Truck Series start since 2017. He has 32 career starts in the series, including one win in the 2017 season-opening race at Daytona.

He drove in Austin Dillon’s place earlier this year in the Cup race on the Daytona road course after Dillon tested positive for COVID-19.

“My thoughts will be with Natalie this weekend as I wish her a quick recovery,” Grala said in a press release. “I know she loves the restrictor-plate races, so I feel bad that she’ll have to miss this one, but I hope I can give her something to cheer for on Saturday. 

“It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a Truck, but the superspeedway races have been very good to me in the past, so I’m really hoping to be able to go grab a win for Niece Motorsports at Talladega.”

FanVision closes due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic

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FanVision Entertainment, the company that produces video devices used by race fans at NASCAR events, has ceased operations due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news was announced in a statement from Racing Electronics, the company which sold and supported FanVision devices at NASCAR tracks through a license with FanVision Entertainment.

Racing Electronics, which is owned by NASCAR, can no longer sell or support the devices.

“We recognize this news will be met with disappointment by motorsports fans across the country who utilized FanVision’s products as part of their at-track experience,” Racing Electronics president Chad Willis said in a statement.

“To help fans and industry members transition to Racing Electronics products, we are working with existing FanVision device owners to solve their race day needs. When Racing Electronics returns to the track, fans and industry members will have access to all the sounds that make racing so special.”

RCR, Hendrick to collaborate on Chevy engine

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Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing will team up on research and development of a common Chevrolet engine after the conclusion of the 2020 season, the teams announced Thursday.

The two organizations will continue to function independently as they “fully leverage the knowledge and intellectual property of our two successful programs to advance Chevrolet’s engine for NASCAR,” they said in a joint statement.

Engines produced by Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing (via ECR Engines) have earned a combined 20 Cup titles and the two teams have totaled 369 Cup wins.

Jeff Andrews, the new executive vice president at Hendrick Motorsports, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” Thursday that discussions about the venture between his team and RCR began two years ago.

“The day was going to come when we really needed to figure out how to get these two programs together,” Andrews said. “A tremendous amount of talent, people and a tremendous amount of equipment and resources between the two programs. How could we do this? How could we take the longstanding heritage between these two companies and get that together to start working on an alliance that truly would produce the ultimate powertrain for Chevrolet NASCAR?”

RCR is headquartered in Welcome, North Carolina and Hendrick’s campus is in Concord, North Carolina.

“I think when you step back and look at it, ultimately you have to get to a point to where, when you have these resources and you have these people, we have to do what’s best for Chevrolet, first and foremost, to continue to push their performance and get them back to the front of the field and get them wins and championships,” Andrews said. “Really, we work together in a very similar fashion. We started two years ago on the aerodynamic side with our groups working very close together and we’re kind of taking somewhat of that template and applying to the engine side in starting this joint alliance.”

Chevrolet last won a Cup title in 2016 when Jimmie Johnson earned his record-tying seventh championship. Since then, Chevy has not had a car reach the championship four.

The Cup Series is in the middle of the Round of 12. The series races Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Of the 12 cars that remain, four are Chevrolets: Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch.

Chevrolet cars have won six times through 30 races this season. That’s compared to seven wins in all of 2019, four in 2018 and and 10 in 2017.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Talladega

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The NASCAR playoffs roll on this weekend to Talladega Superspeedway.

All three national series will be racing on NASCAR’s largest oval. The weekend will be capped off by the Cup Series’ Round of 12 race.

More: Denny Hamlin on pole for Cup race at Talladega

MORE: 2021 Cup schedule features new tracks, bold changes 

Here is the weekend schedule for Talladega:

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Oct. 2

Noon – 2 p.m. – Driver motorhome parking (screening in progress)

1 – 3 p.m. – Truck Series haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

3 – 9 p.m. – Truck Series garage open

3 – 8 p.m. – Truck Series garage access screening

3:30 – 4 p.m. – Truck Series rookie meeting (teleconference)

5:30 p.m. – Xfinity rookie meeting (teleconference)

6 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

8:30 – 10:30 p.m. – Xfinity haulers enter (screening in progress)


Saturday, Oct. 3

7:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage access (screening in progress)

10 a.m. – Truck Series garage opens

10 a.m. – Noon – Truck Series garage access (screening in progress)

12:45 p.m. – Truck Series drivers report to vehicles

1 p.m. – Truck Series race; 94 laps/250.04 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

4 p.m. – Truck Series haulers exit

4:05 p.m. – Xfinity drivers report to cars

4:30 p.m. – Xfinity race; 113 laps/300.58 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:30 p.m. – Cup rookie meeting (electronic communication)

6 p.m. – Cup driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity haulers exit

8:30 – 10:30 p.m. – Cup haulers enter (screening in progress and equipment unload)


Sunday, Oct. 4

7 a.m. – Cup garage opens

7 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Cup garage access screening in progress

1:30 p.m. – Cup drivers report to cars

1:30 p.m. – Driver introductions

2 p.m. – Cup race; 188 laps/500 miles (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

6:30 p.m. – Cup haulers exit