McMurray, Chitwood trade one helmet for another
June 11, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
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Jamie McMurray wasn't setting out to impress the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars with his football ability or athletic prowess, but after an afternoon in the steamy hot Florida sun working out with the team on Tuesday, he sure helped NASCAR win over some fans.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver and Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III dressed out with the team -- helmets, uniform tops, no pads -- and ran passing routes, returned punts and participated alongside the Jags players in agility drills at the team's training facility.
The idea was to drum up interest locally for the upcoming July 5 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway as well as the 2015 Daytona 500, whose tickets went on sale early Tuesday morning.
And it seemed to pay off immediately.
"All through the day the players were coming up and saying how they wanted to come to the race,'' said the 2010 Daytona 500 winner McMurray, who considers Tuesday's experience one of the most unique he's ever had.
"I just had fun with it,'' McMurray said. "It wasn't about how good I was going to be. The coolest part of it was after every play, everyone high-fived each other. They were giving me high-fives every time I came to the line and I got the biggest thrill out of that feeling like I was a legitimate member of the team for a little bit.
"I've done quite a few appearances for tracks trying to promote races, but this was just amazing."
McMurray caught every punt he went back to receive and all but one pass during the drills. He joked afterward that the position he was best suited for would probably be "water boy."
After the workout, he and Chitwood showed off the Daytona 500 Harley J. Earl Trophy and presented the team autographed racing helmets.
"We invited several of the players to the race and I told (rookie quarterback) Blake Bortles if he ever wanted to do a ride-along, I'd be happy to give him a ride."
Perhaps Bortles will be at the track in a working capacity some day. Chitwood told the Associated Press he hoped to host a Jaguars game on Daytona's infield.
"We've not had a formal discussion with the Jags here, but we've got some great relationships," Chitwood told the AP. "There's always an opportunity."
That opportunity has become more apparent with the Daytona Rising project currently underway.
"We've got a little bit of runway in front of us because the property won't be done until January 2016, so plenty of time to work through this," Chitwood told the AP. "But I truly believe we're going to be adding events to the property. With the investment we're making, we can really compete for those kind of sporting events where really we didn't have the chance before. The property's just too good not to use for multiple events. ... We can do this."