McMurry to step back from fulltime driving
Amid the hoopla of Gil de Ferran’s retirement following the Monterey Sports Car Championship presented by Patr¢n, another driver quietly exited the stage after building an impressive array of results in his American Le Mans Series career. On the podium following the race, emotions for AutoCon Motorsports were particularly high as Chris McMurry bid farewell to full-time racing.
McMurry, who ran with Team Bucknum Racing, Miracle Motorsports, and more recently with AutoCon, is hanging up the array of colorful helmets he became known for after 57 American Le Mans Series starts, six class wins including Sebring in 2005, 23 podiums and 46 top-5 finishes, and two appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Actually, he freely admits he may be back for a few cameos, but is probably closing the door on the full-season commitment he’s engaged in over the past nine years. “The demands of racing, serial entrepreneurship and a family man make life both wonderful and non-stop,” he said. “Being part of the American Le Mans Series and the many amazing people in its community since Petit Le Mans in 2001 has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Sometimes in life you have to close one chapter to fully embrace the next. My family has been so supportive of my crazy lifestyle, and I’m looking forward now to returning the favor they have given me.”
He has been a stalwart supporter of the American Le Mans Series and will be missed as an example of the consummate privateer. His final start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this past weekend was indicative of the solid professional he had become. After 40 laps and in his final stint on the demanding circuit he delivered the car to co-driver Bryan Willman still on the lead lap and in perfect condition. Three hours later he celebrated a podium finish in the P1 class and a fourth overall in the race. It was a fitting ending, and he says, “one that couldn’t have concluded much better.”
“There’s no place I’d rather race,” he said. “From Scott Atherton through to everyone in his American Le Mans Series organization, it’s a first-class act that does an incredible job of balancing an unbelievable diversity of interests, and making everyone feel welcome in the process. On the AutoCon side, we’ve done everything since day one on a handshake, and at no point have we ever gone sideways. That’s a story you can’t often tell, and is the ultimate compliment that needs to be paid to Michael Lewis, Bryan Willman and Tony Burgess.”
AutoCon team owner Lewis added, “The performance we saw today was what we have come to expect from Chris as our unofficial lead driver. Personally, I think Petit Le Mans this year was perhaps his finest hour as a driver. There was a 15-minute period near the end where he was matching lap times with Dario Franchitti in the quasi-factory Acura, even taking a few tenths out of him at times. And this was in very difficult track conditions. His work thru traffic was controlled aggression and the lap times consistent and quick. Great stuff! Of course, it’s lost on most fans because the focus is on the factory teams but I hope he takes that away as a great moment. His leadership and camaraderie will be missed for sure.”
The McMurry/Willman driving duo lists very high in the annals of Series history in starts, podiums, and top-fives. They have a special bond having come through the ranks together starting in the Star Mazda series, forming their own team with Jeff Bucknum back in LMP675 days, and finally landing together in the AutoCon stable for the last three years. As only he can, Willman sums up his thoughts on McMurry’s departure. “After many years of stubborn persistence in the insanity of racing, Chris appears to be suffering from a temporary excess of common sense. I imagine and hope after some rest and recovery, this will pass. And he will hear the car calling to him…”
Everyone at AutoCon also hopes that Chris hears the ‘calling’ soon! In the meantime Chris, may the wind always be at your back and the sun on your face.