KANSAS CITY, Kan — Jamie McMurray may not be ready to start calling Kyle Larson “Little Buddy,” a la Skipper and Gilligan, but he’s looking forward to getting know his new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teammate at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Larson, 21, is replacing Juan Pablo Montoya in EGR’s No. 42 Chevrolet next season. The NASCAR Driver for Diversity graduate will make his Cup debut Oct. 12 at Charlotte in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, but the car will be prepared by EGR.
With Montoya living in Miami, Fla., and his native Colombia, he and McMurray have had little chance to communicate away from the race track. That won’t be the case with Larson, who also shares McMurray’s passion for go-kart racing.
“Having Kyle in the Charlotte area is going to be beneficial,” said McMurray, 37. “At the same time, Juan and I really don’t have a relationship away from the race track. I don’t know that’s that important, but the fact that Kyle and I are both into karting and can go out and do that and just hang out and goof off …
“We’re definitely at different stages in our life, where I’m married with kids, and he has neither. That’s a big difference in our life, but when you have a common hobby and something you can go do together and hang out and maybe become a little better friends along with teammates, I think that’s going to be good.”
McMurray, if asked, also will do whatever he can to help his new teammate adjust to Cup cars and Cup tracks.
“Kyle is a really easy guy to get along with,” McMurray said. “He’s a good person, he’s been racing for a long time, and racing is all he wants to do. I think he’ll be a really good listener. I’m not one to push my opinion over, but if he’s to ask my opinion, then I’ll be very honest with him, and like I said when they announced that Kyle was going to be my teammate, I think there will be a little bit that I can help him with on the track.
“Maybe going to tracks he’s never been to — Martinsville, Pocono and some of those places and explain how restarts work or just little nuances that happen at each track. I think my role with Kyle is going to be much larger off the track with sponsor commitments, coming into more money, a lot of things that I don’t know that we pay attention to when someone gets a Cup ride versus being in the Trucks or the Nationwide.”
Just hope I’m around
At age 79, James Hylton, a veteran of 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, was making his final start in the ARCA Series Friday afternoon. Jimmie Johnson’s spotter, Earl Barban, was set to fill the same role for Hylton’s swan song in the No. 48 Ford.
Asking what he hoped to be doing at age 79, Johnson had a one word answer: “Breathing.”
“I’m excited for him,” Johnson added. “Every time I see him out there in that No. 48, it puts a big smile on my face.
“But at 79, it’s amazing. He’s truly passionate and loves our sport. It’s nice to see him out there one last time.”
Hylton ran the No. 48 in all but a handful of his 602 Cup starts. He won twice with the number, at Richmond in 1970 and at Talladega in 1972. He last raced the No. 48 in the Cup series at Darlington in 1993.
Johnson has won 65 Cup races since taking over the No. 48 in 2001.
Good thing it’s
Early in Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session, Jimmie Johnson spun off Turn 4. The five-time champion kept his car off the wall, hitting only the orange commitment cone at the entrance to pit road.
Later in the session, a puff of smoke shot from the right rear of the No. 48 Chevrolet as Johnson drove off Turn 2. Johnson brought the car to the garage, where he crew began diagnosing the problem.
“As I was coming in, I saw some smoke in the mirror, and I could smell it, and it looks like we have an issue with the radiator or something up front,” Johnson said as the crew worked on the car.
“There’s nothing wrong with the engine. It’s certainly a quick scare when you see that blue smoke and the smell that it has. I was pretty nervous.”
Similarly, the earlier spin wasn’t a big deal.
“I just spun out trying real hard on that first sticker run,” Johnson said, “and we got things back under control and the balance in the car. It’s really fast. I’m happy about that.”
Despite the issues, Johnson was third fastest in the practice session behind Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.