News & Media

Notes: Drivers pitch in to help after tornadoes

May 28, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

CONCORD, N.C. -- McMurray sees similarities with Stenhouse; Raikkonen impresses Edwards

Team owner Michael Waltrip will hit the ground running when he arrives in Kansas City next week, but it won't be at the race track.

Waltrip, MWR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann and JTG/Daugherty driver Bobby Labonte, along with their crew members, are hosting collections at two locations in the Kansas City area for victims of the recent deadly tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo.

Joplin donations

50555: Texting the word CONVOY to this number donates $10 to the Convoy of Hope, the nonprofit organization helping residents of Joplin, Mo. affected by last Sunday's tornado.

Reutimann and Labonte will appear at the Aaron's store in Shawnee, Kan. from 6-8 p.m. local time. Truex will follow the same schedule at the Bass Pro Shops location in Olathe.

Waltrip will shuttle between the two locations, starting out in Shawnee at 6 p.m. and arriving at Olathe at 7:15 p.m. Fans will be able to take photos and collect autographs from the drivers and crew members in return for donations of canned foods, blankets, and toiletry items, which MWR will transport to Joplin on Friday.

"Everyone has seen the devastation on television, and we wanted to help those people who are suffering right now," Waltrip said. "We're racing in the area this weekend at Kansas Speedway and we just wanted to do something that gives back to this community and the people that mean so much to MWR and NASCAR. ... We'll have some fun while we collect items the people in Joplin really need."

Items collected will be delivered to the Convoy of Hope location that funnels relief efforts to Joplin. Reutimann is sporting the Convoy of Hope logo on his No. 00 Toyota this weekend. Jamie McMurray, who grew up in Joplin, has the Convoy of Hope logo on his No. 1 Chevrolet, as he, sponsor Bass Pro Shops and his fellow drivers work to raise awareness of Convoy of Hope's relief efforts.

McMurray was confused, then stunned, when a friend in Joplin sent him a picture early in the week.

"I didn't even know what he had sent me," the Sprint Cup driver said Saturday. "Then I did figure it out because one part left of my house was actually the address left on the front wall.

"I think it's really hard for me to explain to you guys when you see the pictures to know what it used to look like," said McMurray, who indicated he last visited Joplin four or five years ago. "It makes it more real for somebody when you know what the school used to look like or the hospital or that area and see how destroyed it is. It's incredible the damage the tornado did."

McMurray said not only was the house he grew up leveled on May 22, the tornado "took the whole neighborhood out." Also destroyed much of the high school McMurray attended. The death toll reached 132 on Friday.

"Everyone that I know, or at least friends talking to friends, I haven't known anyone that's lost their life," McMurray said. "I have a lot of friends that have lost their homes."

Deja vu for McMurray?

Is it deja vu for Jamie McMurray?

The driver of the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet sees some striking parallels between his own career and that of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will make his first Sprint Cup start in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Donnie Wingo, crew chief for the No. 21, was McMurray's crew chief during his first stint with owner Chip Ganassi, but the association between Wingo and McMurray didn't start until 2003.

McMurray, of course, won his first Cup race at Charlotte (Oct. 13, 2002) in his second start in the series, subbing for injured Sterling Marlin. Stenhouse is racing at Charlotte in place of Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, sidelined by a mysterious illness. Bayne, whose symptoms have subsided, will return to the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford at Michigan in mid-June.

Stenhouse was oblivious to the similarities -- and the prospect of winning Sunday's race -- until McMurray brought it up.

"We're not thinking that at all," Stenhouse said.

"He's lying," quipped McMurray. "I told Donnie, 'You got Ricky at a really good time. He's like me back in 2002.' "

McMurray was impressed with Stenhouse's performance in Cup practice -- and in his ninth-place effort at qualifying Thursday night.

"He jumped in the No. 21 car and in the first two or three laps was up to speed," McMurray said. "He's a really good driver and a really good kid. He'll be tough on Sunday."

Stenhouse, 23, will have to be tough enough to run 600 miles in NASCAR's longest race, and he's taking the challenge seriously.

"I've been going to bed early all week and making sure I've eaten well and drinking a lot of water," Stenhouse said. "Our trainer at the shop -- he's done a great job making me work out every week, and hopefully it'll pay off."

Who is that guy?

At one point during Nationwide Series practice Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards found himself trailing the No. 87 Toyota.

Edwards radioed to his crew chief and asked, "Who's in the 87?"

The driver was 2007 Formula one champion Kimi Raikkonen, preparing for his Nationwide Series debut on Saturday. Edwards could see that the handling of the car was loose to the extreme, and he was impressed with the way Raikkonen hustled it around the 1.5-mile track.

"They need to take about 500 pounds of right-rear spring out of that thing," Edwards said after the session. "He [was] loose, and he was driving the wheels off it. I was just surprised. I didn't know who was in that car.

"I had no clue, and then I saw that Perky Jerky [Raikkonen's sponsor] on there, and I thought it might be him, but he definitely has some car control -- that's for sure. That's not lip service. That was pretty amazing. I might have seen smoke off the right-rear."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.