Racing rivalries don’t seem as prevalent in NASCAR anymore, but veteran driver Jamie McMurray said they do still exist in the sport.
McMurray said on the recent NASCAR on NBC podcast that his generation has mellowed out some, and they handle conflicts and rivalries differently now than when they were in their 20s.
“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.”
McMurray said there is more gamesmanship while drivers try to retaliate, including blocking other drivers on pit road. He cited a recent incident with former teammate Kurt Busch at the Indianapolis 500.
“At Indy, I made it three wide on a restart,” McMurray said. “At Pocono, he 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.”
As for the younger generation of drivers, McMurray said they are all “smart racers,” and they do a good job of “not poking the bear.”
He specifically cited Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson as three young drivers who have been smart in how they approach rivals and other veteran drivers.
McMurray is in the midst of an intense battle for a playoff spot, and he is 58 points ahead of Clint Bowyer for the last spot in the postseason field. McMurray either needs a win in the last two races, or hope that another playoff contender doesn’t win a race themselves.
(h/t NBC Sports)