Media Day: Clean and green at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Media Day for the Daytona 500 is a lot like the two qualifying races for the season-opening event.

Typically not a big deal, most folks just trying to make it through the day with as little damage as possible.

There was nary a caution here Wednesday. Nobody wadded ‘em up.

• Jamie McMurray spoke about making his last start in NASCAR’s Cup Series, a one-shot race with Chip Ganassi Racing in Sunday’s 500.

It will be the shortest NASCAR farewell tour on record.

He’ll drive a No. 42 Chevrolet, the number reflecting his first start for Ganassi in ’02 as a substitute driver for the injured Sterling Marlin.

That was at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and wouldn’t you know it, McMurray won the very next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The television booth is the new driver’s seat for NASCAR competitors. McMurray is the most recent to make the transition from steering wheel to microphone.

“What I know of talking with my friends who have retired is there’s this period when you’re away you want to come back but then after a while that goes away,” McMurray said of exiting the car for the final time. “I’m hoping my TV job (with FOX) carries me through that part.”

• Elsewhere, Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) and Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing Ford) mentioned they’ve spoken to one another in the aftermath of Sunday’s Clash crash at Daytona.

Johnson, the race winner: “I don’t know if there’s really anything different.”

Menard, not the race winner: “Looking in rearview mirror on that one. What’s done is done.”

• William Byron, pole winner for the 500, is still a student at Liberty University, a junior this year, and when was the last time a professional athlete in any sport was in a similar position?

“It’s busy, but it works out,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said.

There have been athletes who took classes during the offseason in order to graduate. But during the season? Perhaps, but it’s not the norm.

I can hear it now.

“My homework blew out the window on the backstretch at Daytona.”

• A glimpse of things to come? An unusual story from Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) on Wednesday.

Asked if any Daytona 500 memory stood out, Hamlin, who won this event in 2016, recalled the 2004 race, won by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Hamlin, in the process of signing with JGR as a development driver at the time, was at the 500 as a guest of Earnhardt.

“I remember walking from his bus to victory lane, or to the race track, and I go out on pit road and I see the (No.) 20 pit box and I see his and … I don’t know where I’m supposed to go,” Hamlin said.

“I’ll never forget when he won, being able to carry that trophy back to his motorhome and I was just thinking how awesome would it be to have one of these.

“Of course, 12 years later, I did get my own. I was wondering for a while if it was a jinx since I touched the trophy, I’d never get it.”

• Kyle Busch said he and JGR officials have been hashing out details that will keep him with the organization. Next step is to put it all on paper.

Busch has won one Cup title (2015) and 47 points races since joining Gibbs in 2008.

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