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.”

NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:

 

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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:

 

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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.