Brian Murphy

Bump and Run: Practice at Daytona road course, driver graduations

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NASCAR does not plan to have any practice before next month’s Cup race on the Daytona road course. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are lobbying for some practice time. Is it needed? (Note: NASCAR announced Tuesday afternoon there would be no qualifying or practice the rest of the season in any of its national series)

Dustin Long: This is a case of what’s best for the fans and what’s best for the teams. Denny Hamlin raises a valid point by questioning what the race might be like since it is a new course — and could possibly have an added chicane to slow the cars — and most drivers have not run on the configuration. However, the cost to prepare a second car for this event in case the primary car is wrecked in practice or qualifying is not something teams want. They voted against having a practice session. Still, this seems like a time when practice would be good. I like Hamlin’s idea of practice without a backup car and if you wreck in a short practice session, you finish last in the race. 

Daniel McFadin: I feel it’s needed. This is a course that no NASCAR vehicle, Cup, Xfinity or Truck has been on. Holding the Cup race without any sort of on-track prep makes the race more dangerous. This isn’t like lining up at Darlington or other tracks and dropping the green. NASCAR should want to send its top drivers into the safest possible scenario. You don’t want a historic race to be a fiasco because team owners didn’t want to spend the money on one-time costs. If anything, Hamlin’s idea about a team being scored as finishing last if they wreck in practice has merit to it. 

Dustin: For a different viewpoint, check out what Brian Murphy, a fabricator at Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about building backup cars and the impact on teams and crews …  

 

 

Brad Keselowski advocates a system where drivers could graduate to Cup and be removed from Cup if they’re involved in too many on-track issues. What are your thoughts on this concept?

Dustin: Clint Bowyer had a good take on this. He said if a sanctioning body does well with preparing drivers up the series ladder, then it shouldn’t have to worry about removing them because of numerous on-track issues. Is that realistic when money can buy rides? Maybe not but it’s a goal for any top motorsports sanctioning body.

Daniel: I think a graduation/demotion system would be too complicated and unrealistic given the business structure of the sport. But NASCAR needs to take a hard look at how it approves drivers for the Cup Series. When testing is basically banned, the minimum needs to be bolstered. Should someone with 10 Xfinity starts and only two lead-lap finishes, like Quin Houff at the end of 2018, be given the OK to go Cup racing? I wouldn’t be in a rush to give my stamp of approval if I were NASCAR.

Dustin: If there ever was a graduation format, what track should host the “ceremony” and what would it be like?

Daniel: Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie Gossage already has a graduation outfit tucked away in his closet for the occasion from his many high school graduation ceremonies for young drivers. I’d expect plenty of pyro and an embarrassing montage on Big Hoss.

Dustin: Who would be the special guest? Got to have a special guest for this event, right?

Daniel: Actor Jim Rash, who portrayed the … eccentric Dean Craig Pelton on the cult classic NBC sitcom “Community,” about a wacky community college and the misfit students who attended it. 

 

The past two weeks have seen drivers who were outside a playoff spot win to secure a postseason position. If the streak continues Thursday at Kansas, who would you think is the best candidate to shake things up?

Daniel: Tyler Reddick is the easy pick for me here. He’s coming off a second-place finish at Texas which is his second career top five, tying him with Cole Custer. One of Reddick’s two Cup starts last year was at Kansas, where he placed ninth after benefitting from pit strategy.

Dustin: You took the easy pick Daniel. I’ll take the best pick. Erik Jones. Yes, this hasn’t been a memorable season for him but he has finished in the top 10 in each of the last four Kansas races. 

Daniel: Hopefully Jones’ sixth-place showing at Texas is a sign of things to come. It’s been his only top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile track this season.

Dustin: No better time than now to turn things around for Jones.

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

Photo: Brian Murphy
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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.”

Longtime Stewart-Haas Racing employee killed in crash

Photo courtesy Brian Murphy Twitter page
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Stewart-Haas Racing is mourning the loss of long-time employee Shawn Soules, who was killed in a motorcycle/car crash Tuesday night near Statesville, North Carolina.

According to the Mooresville (N.C.) Tribune, Soules, 47, of Kannapolis, N.C., was riding his motorcycle southbound on NC State Highway 3 when it collided with a BMW passenger car driven by Douglas Catropa, 47, of Mooresville.

According to a report by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Catropa was traveling north on Highway 3 when his vehicle turned left onto Johnson Dairy Road and collided with Soules’ motorcycle.

Soules reportedly died at the scene, while Catropa was uninjured, according to the police report, which stated Catropa was wearing a seatbelt and that impairment or phone distraction are not suspected. The report also stated Soules was wearing a helmet and that impairment or excessive speed are not suspected.

The Highway Patrol is continuing to investigate the crash.

In a statement to NBC Sports.com, Stewart-Haas Racing president Brett Frood said: “We are grieving the loss of one of our own. Shawn Soules was an exceptional member of Stewart-Haas Racing whose expertise, passion and genuine fun-loving personality will be greatly missed and remembered. This is a tragic loss for the entire racing community and we are committed to providing support to Shawn’s family and colleagues during this difficult time.”

Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 4 SHR Ford Mustang of Kevin Harvick, tweeted about the loss of Soules early Wednesday morning.

 

Later, SHR fabricator Brian Murphy tweeted about Soules. According to TobyChristie.com, SHR cars competing in this weekend’s NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series races at Michigan International Raceway will carry a special decal in memory of Soules.

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