McMurray prepares for 24-hour race;

by Bob Priddy, Contributing Editor

We’re about a month away from the Daytona 500. It’s time for a mid off-season checkup on three drivers we follow in NASCAR’s top series. But one of our Missouri drivers will be running at Daytona January 30-31, three weeks before the 500.

Joplin’s Jamie McMurray will return to defend his championship in the Daytona 24-hour race at the end of the month. He’ll be back in the Ganassi Ford Prototype class car, teaming again with fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Larson is McMurray’s teammate on Ganassi’s NASCAR Cup team.

Scott Dixon (02), of New Zealand, leads Oswaldo Negri, Jr., right, of Brazil, and Scott Pruett, of the U.S. , back left, out of a turn during early laps of the IMSA 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

McMurray, A. J. Foyt, and Mario Andretti are the only drivers to win both the Daytona 24-Hours and the Daytona 500. He’s also one of three drivers to win the Daytona 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in the same year (Dale Jarrett did it in 1996 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006).The Daytona 500 will be run February 21. McMurray made the NASCAR championship chase field for the first time last year.

Columbia’s Carl Edwards will start the NASCAR Cup season with a new crew chief—Dave Rogers, who moves over from Denny Hamlin’s team to replace Darian Grubb. The shift surprises Rogers, who chiefed for Kyle Busch for five years before running Hamlin’s team last year. Grubb guided Edwards deep into the championship chase in 2015. Edwards finished fifth.

Team owner Joe Gibbs says, “2015 was probably the strongest season e have ever had at Joe Gibbs Racing. We won more races than we ever have, qualified all four teams into the Chase and were blessed to end it with the…Championship. I think every year you evaluate each of your teams however and sometimes during that process you find that a change might be in the best interest of all involved.”

Edwards considers Grubb one of NASCAR’s most brilliant race-day strategists but he told, “Coach Gibbs is the man when it comes to putting the right people in the right places…The simple way to put it is we started [2015] with nothing and they put together one of the greatest teams I’ve ever been part of. So I have a lot of faith in whatever decision Coach makes.” When we talked to Edwards at Indianapolis last year, he described Gibbs as “a people person, a leader of men,” who runs his racing program “more like a football team. Everybody competes with one another but everybody has their arms around one another.”

Rogers has an impressive record in his seven years as a crew chief in the Cup series. His drivers have finished in the top ten in almost half of his 230 races as a chief. They have fifteen wins and seventy-six top fives. He takes over a team that has two All-Pro pit crew members. NASCAR pit crew members named front tire changer Clay Dowell and rear tire carrier Matt Ver Meer the best at their jobs last year.

Clint Bowyer, the Emporia, Kansas native who has a place to play at the Lake of the Ozarks, will be with a new team in 2016 but he’ll be driving with familiar colors and a familiar number.


Five-Hour Energy Drink is staying with him as he moves to HSCOTT Motorsports for a year before he settles in at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017. Bowyer had driven the 15-car for Michael Waltrip Racing, which has closed its doors at the end of last season. But he’ll keep that number in 2016.

He’ll replace Tony Stewart at SHR next year after Stewart retires.   He drove a Toyota for MWR but will switch to Chevrolet for HSCOTT and stick with Chevrolet at SHR.

Bowyer made the sixteen-car Chase for the Championship field in 2015 but a series of penalties after the first race of the ten-race championship run left him out of contention. He finished second in the chase in 2012.

(INDYCAR)—IndyCar is preparing for a longer season in 2016 than in 2015. The first race In that series is the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in Florida March 13.

(FORMULA 1)—Formula One will start its 2016 season with the Australian Grand Prix March 20. (That’s about Australia’s equivalent of our October).

(photo credits: McMurray: AP Photo/John Raoux/Ganassi Racing; Edwards,; Bowyer, NASCAR.)



May music

Some great public events in May begin with music that produces goosebumps from tens of thousands of people when the first notes are heard. “My Old Kentucky Home” is as much a part of the Kentucky Derby as the horses that run at Churchill Downs. “Maryland, My Maryland,” is ingrained in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, in Maryland.
And last weekend we were on pit road just a few yards away from Jim Nabors as he sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” moments before the engines fired for an extraordinary Indianapolis 500. He’s not going to do it again.

Jim Nabors is 83 now, living in Hawaii, has had some health problems, and finds the long trip to the Speedway more than he wants to tackle every year.
We have written before about the place in personal culture the race occupies. But within that culture has been a special place for those days when we consume the race off a television screen in the living room. While other things might be going on in the house during the pre-race broadcast, they stop when the track announcer introduces “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
A few years ago, health problems kept Jim Nabors from performing the song. The Speedway put the words to the song on the large video screens throughout the track and the crowd sang the song. I think I was in the press area inside the first turn that year and I sang like a native Hoosier. I sent a letter to the Speedway management suggesting they seek a Guiness Book of World Records designation of the event as the world’s largest choral performance but I don’t think they ever did.
The music of May highlights a dismal situation in Missouri.
Name one significant event in Missouri—and, sadly, we have nothing that matches the horse and car races of Kentucky, Maryland, and Indiana–where someone sings our state song.
Just one. Name one.
Opening day of the baseball season in Kansas City and St. Louis?
First home game of the Missouri Tigers?
Opening night of the American Royal?
Inauguration of a new Governor?
Would we dare have anyone sing The Missouri Waltz before a Super Bowl in either of our big cities? We can surely hope not. It would be embarrassing.
Missouri’s state song was a political mistake by the legislature in 1949. And while our legislature finds it significant to argue about which dog should be a state dog, or pass a law designating a tasteless, crumbly pastry as the official state dessert (the ice cream cone–with no mention in the law that ice cream would be in said cone), or designate a state exercise, it shows an appalling lack of interest in finding a new song that will be as meaningful to Missourians as the songs sung in May in Kentucky, Maryland, and Indiana.
We haven’t heard every state song but we can tell you that the first words of Missouri’s state song, “Hush-a-by my baby; slumber time’s a-comin’ soon,” will never have the emotional impact of the first words Jim Nabors has sung at the Speedway almost every year for almost four decades, “Back Home Again in Indiana…”
Right, Jim?

Jim Nabors
(photo by Rick Gevers)

Before there was Pat Summerall—-

The death of sports announcer Pat Summerall a few days ago has brought many tributes to his style, the soft authoritative nature of his voice, and hsi long career away from the playing field and in the broadcast booth. But before there was Pat Summerall there was Ray Scott.

Ray Scott had one of those clear, naturally dramatic voices that carried with it the drama of the game unfolding on the field below. The drama wasn’t forced. No one ever accused Ray Scott ove over-acting in his descriptions of football games—we remember him most for his Green Bay Packer broadcasts although he broadcast a lot of other sports in his time.

Scott never needed to talk all the time in the booth. He didn’t like to talk the obvious when the viewer could see it. In short, he didn’t do radio on TV. Viewers could see a runner or a receiver dashing across the 50, 40, 30, 20, 10,5, TOUCHDOWNNNNNNNNN!

We saw one of his most famous calls. It might have been in the second AFL-NFL Championship Game (it wasn’t yet known as the Super Bowl) when the Packers’ quarterback, Bart Starr, threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Boyd Dowler. We could see it and we didn’t need anything more than the five words the electric voice of Ray Scott told us: “Starr…..Dowler…..Touchdown, Green Bay.” It was television, not radio. He told us only what we needed to know and because he didn’t clutter up his play-by-play with descriptions of the obvious, the play remains crisp in memory.

Ray Scott died in 1998, in his late 80s. His career in the broadcast booth is unknown to a generation or two of sports fans and contemporary announcers. He was in his 20s when he called his first game, on local radio.

You have to be getting up in years to remember the fourth network in the early days of television–DuMont, which did the first coast-to-coast telecast of the NFL Championship Game in 1951. The play-by-play announcer was Ray Scott.

His big break came in 1956 when he was hired to work the ABC telecast of the Sugar Bowl and was paired with the legendary Bill Stern, an institution in sports broadcasting for a couple of decades. The game matched Pitt and Georgia Tech and Scott was the regular radio broadcaster for the Pittsburgh games. Stern was the top sports announcer for ABC then. But Stern, who had lost a leg in a car crash several years earlier had become addicted to painkillers, including morphine. Stern was so badly affected by the drugs that he was taken off the air shortly after the broadcast began and Scott did almost the entire game, a performance that attracted the attention of CBS. The network hired him in 1956 to do the Packer games. Scott broadcast almost all of the games in the Lombardi era. As the Packer’s announcer, he broaddcast the first half of the famous NFL championship game that was dubbed the “Ice Bowl.” The announcer for the second half was the Cowboys’ announcer—Jack Buck. Frank Gifford did the analysis.

Scott became the lead CBS football announcer in 1968. His partner in the booth was Paul Christman, the great University of Missouri All-American, a pairing that was highly-praised for the two years they were together. Christman died at the age of 51 in the spring of 1970. His replacement was Pat Summerall. When Scott and CBS agreed to part ways in ’74, Summerall began the play-by-play career for which he is so fondly remembered today. But before Pat Summerall became the dominating announcer he is remembered as being, he studied for four years beside Ray Scott.

Scott later was the play-by-play announcer for the Kansas City Chiefs for a couple of years in the mid-70s. His later career took him to several other pro football teams.

He was on the first broadcast team of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington in 1961. When a new Washington Senators team was created, Ray Scott broadcast their games. And he did some games for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Scott broadcast four Super Bowls and seven NFL championship games while with CBS. He broadcast every major bowl game except the Cotton Bowl. He was the lead announce for six Masters golf tournaments and two British Opens. When the LPGA hit TV, Ray Scott was in the booth.

It would be good for young people wanting to become sportscasters (and, we must note, sports broadcasters are a dime a dozen–you can hear them all over your radio dial on Fall Friday evenings) to think of Ray Scott. If those great sportscaster wanna-bes ever do television, they might remember the man who did not feel it was necessary to tell viewers what they were seeing. One newspaper article I came across in helping recall Scott remembered the simplicity and the clarity of another of Scott’s calls in a Packers-Giants game:

“Starr barking signals . . . Hornung and Taylor set behind Starr . . . (pause for play to start) . . . Taylor . . . six yards to the Giants’ 23 . . . tackled by Sam Huff . . . brings up second and 4 . . ”

He knew that saying too much during a television broadcast robbed the game of its natural excitement. He knew how to do television on television, not radio on television. We don’t know how he would fare in these days when there might be a game on the field but there’s a show in the broadcast booth. But we do know that we don’t recall any of the television football play calls from this era of almost constant booth-talk. But indelibly etched in our memory is the day Ray Scott said everything I needed to hear and not one word more when he said only,

“Starr…..Dowler…..Touchdown, Green Bay.”