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posted July 09, 2001 01:52 PM
Murray scores 200th career I.M.C.A. Sunoco Modified win
OBERLIN, Kan. (July 7) - With his one goal of the season achieved, David Murray Jr. is deciding what comes next.
Murray, from Oberlin, Kan., became the first I.M.C.A. Sunoco Modified driver to reach the 200 career feature win mark when he won Saturday night at Rooks County Speedway in Stockton.
"It means a lot to win the 200th one. Everybody was pretty happy," he said. "I tried to lay back and race like it was any other night, but I probably wanted it a little more and pushed for it harder."
His first career win, one of four he collected in his rookie 1991 campaign, came on April 27 at Elmwood Park Speed-way.
"We didn't even know how long we were going to race a Modified.When we first started out there weren't many tracks around here to race them at. It's kind of surprising, looking back, that we've made it as far as we have," he said. "Then more tracks around here started running'em and getting sanctions. I would have never thought we would be where we are. It's something we never expected."
He started on the outside of the sixth row at Rooks County and took the high side of the track to the lead on the fifth lap.
"This is one of my favorite tracks. It's a big half mile and kind of marbly up there and that's usually where I go," he said. "It's my kind of track. It fits my driving style."
That style hasn't changed much over 10-plus seasons but Murray's approach to racing has. The biggest difference between then and now is what gets done before he puts the 97M car on the trailer. The time he invests in 'homework' has paid off in victories.
"When I first started, if there was something to do on the car, I waited until we got to the track to do it," Murray said. "Now I really try to do my homework at home. On Monday evenings when I get home from work I get the car cleaned up and work on it all week."
"We try to do everything we can at home so we're prepared when we get to the track and I'm ready to race," he added. "Another thing is that we have extra parts. It used to be that when you broke something, all you could do was load up and go home."
He became the seventh Modified driver to reach the 100-win mark when he took the checkers Sept. 28 at Sherman County, in his final race of 1996, then set a personal record with 35 wins the next season.
Murray has won sanctioned events at 16 different tracks in three states. Thirty-four of his 200 victories, and three of his nine career track titles came at Lexington, Neb. He was second on the all-time list with 186 wins, one behind long-time career leader Dave Farren Sr. at the be-ginning of the season.
Farren now has 189 wins. Johnny Saathoff is third with 169 and Bill Davis Sr. is fourth with 149.
"That's a pretty good crowd. It means a lot to me to be part of that group," Murray said. "It's a good feeling. That's a pretty good bunch of guys to be associated with."
The brass ring that has eluded Murray is a national championship. He was runner-up to Rick Stout in 1995, to Saathoff in 1997 and to Henry Witt Jr. last season. Murray had 30-plus wins and the maximum possible 1,200 points in 1996, 1997 and 2000. He was eighth in the '96 standings, when the regional champions comprised the top seven places.
"I'd still like to win the national points some year. We haven't pushed for it this season, but we're kind of in a half-way close position that it could be possible," he said. "There are only 11 days in July we don't race, so we're going to turn it up a little and see where we are at the end of the month. If we're close on wins we might chase it the rest of the season. We'll race every race we can get in this month and see where we are."
Murray has paused to take a breath and make similar evaluations several times in his career. He even considered find-ing a new hobby after a disappointing five-win season in 1998.
"We wrecked a couple cars, broke a few motors, one bad thing after another. It was a rough season and I thought about it then," Murray said. "We re-grouped over the winter and asked what we'd do all summer if we didn't go racing. There have been times when we thought about not racing any more, but you just kind of wipe it off and go again. You have to re-group, change your program a little bit and hope for the better."
Only one driver in I.M.C.A. history has compiled more career wins than Murray. That's Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, who won 328 Late Model races from 1951-1971.
Murray's initial response, when asked if he take aim at that total next, was a chuckle.
"Geez, Louise. He must have really dominated," Murray said. "I'm 33 and I plan on racing I.M.C.A. several more years, so I guess anything is possible. It's always something to shoot for. We weren't chasing national points at the start of the year. We wanted to get the 200th win. Now we're going to have to set another goal."