McMurray: 'I knew better'

Updated: April 2, 2004, 11:26 PM ET
By Jerry Bonkowski | Special to ESPN.com

Jamie McMurray
McMurray
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jamie McMurray came into Texas Motor Speedway on Friday sporting a hangover.

McMurray is still feeling the effects of the controversial tangles he had with Kasey Kahne and defending Cup champ Matt Kenseth last Sunday at Bristol, Tenn.

McMurray's run-in with Kahne early in the Food City 500 sent the rookie driver into the wall for a season-worst 40th-place finish.

Then, McMurray bumped Kenseth out of the way in the same race, only to have Kenseth return the favor on the final lap, dropping McMurray from a likely fifth-place finish to an eventual eighth-place showing. After the race, a furious McMurray first sideswiped and then slammed into the rear of Kenseth's No. 17 Ford.

To his credit, last year's Rookie of the Year was quite candid in his reflections on what happened at Bristol. Of course, having five days between then and now certainly helps clear the fuzziness from one's head.

"I knew better," he admitted Friday before qualifying for this Sunday's Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at TMS. "I've watched a lot of people do that and thought, 'That was an idiot. What was he thinking?' When you spend all day racing at (Bristol) and somebody takes away from you in the last 100 feet or 200 feet, you just want to get them back.

"You just want to do anything you can to get back at them. You don't want somebody to think you're going to let them push you around, but it's not even about that. Matt is not that kind of guy. Everybody knows he wouldn't wreck you on purpose. He was just fired up like I was."

As for his battle with Kahne, McMurray said it too is history.

"It's over now," he said. "I talked to Kasey this week. I knew he was pretty upset, so I went up and apologized to him and told him I'd be very careful around him from here on out. … I wouldn't race him that way. Sometimes it happens. I hate it for him his car got torn up, but I apologized to him and told him I was sorry.

"Kasey said what you're supposed to say. You're mad, and if his car had got fixed, he would have probably got me back before the race was over. That's what you do. That's just part of human nature. You want to retaliate on somebody as soon as you can."

McMurray was fined $10,000, primarily for his run-in with Kenseth, but his earlier joust with Kahne didn't help his case, either.

"As far as the fine goes, they told me they were going to give me the same fine they gave everybody else, and that's fine. I knew I had it coming. You say things at the time because you're fired up, but Kasey isn't that kind of person. … You get mad at people and the team and they had nothing to do with it.

"I'm sure the (No.) 9 team is pretty fired up at me right now, but that's just the way it is. There's a lot of emotions in this sport and everybody wants to do well. When somebody ruins your day for no reason, it gets you mad."

As far as Kahne is concerned, the matter is over and he, too, admits his emotions were on boil at Bristol.

"Looking at it on TV, Jamie didn't do it on purpose,'' Kahne said before qualifying third Friday in Texas. "We put it behind us. He apologized. I mentioned retaliation at Bristol. I was upset at the time up there, but there's no retaliation. We're fine.''

The driver of the No. 42 Dodge now must move forward with this Sunday's race, going from the slow pace at Bristol to one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.

"It's so smooth and so fast," McMurray said. "We ran well here last year. I think we were running second with 30 or 40 laps to go and we left a lugnut loose and had to go back as the last car on the lead lap.

"It's a good place to race. As far as fans go, it's probably one of the top two or three tracks we go to. They pack people in for qualifying and the race (a crowd of 200,000 is anticipated for Sunday's race). Everything in Texas is big … and it's a fun place to come race."

It also could be a good place for McMurray to get back into the Nextel Cup top-10 standings. After being as high as ninth after Las Vegas, McMurray dropped to 19th after Darlington but has rebounded to 14th after Bristol.

"I feel very confident," McMurray said. "We've run in the top five and had a shot to win every race this year. Performance-wise, we've run really well. Donnie (crew chief Donnie Wingo) is worried because he said it's almost been too easy for us to run in the top five. We've done well and we look forward to getting in the top 10."

Even though McMurray hopes to finally have Bristol behind him once and for all, don't be surprised if it still lingers in the recesses of his mind.

"Martinsville is coming up (in two weeks) and that's just as bad as Bristol, so we'll see what happens."

Jerry Bonkowski covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Motorsportwriter@MSN.com.

Jerry Bonkowski | email

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Award-winning sportswriting veteran Jerry Bonkowski returns to ESPN, having previously served as NASCAR columnist/writer for ESPN.com from 2001 to 2004. A lifelong Chicago native, Jerry spent 15 years with USA Today, where he covered all sports -- with heavy emphasis on Chicago-area teams -- and the past 4½ years as National NASCAR Columnist with Yahoo! Sports.

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