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Jamie McMurray won $1 million, and he still has every penny

2014 Coca Cola 600 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Sunday, 6 p.m. (FOX)

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/22/23/47/QZVYv.Em.138.jpeg|241
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Jamie McMurray won $1 million for winning the Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/22/23/47/1t7pSZ.Em.138.jpeg|412
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Jamie McMurray watches his team make adjustments to his car during practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “The week has been really busy,” he said.

Jamie McMurray collected $1 million for winning the Sprint All-Star Race Saturday.

If you, the reader, won $1 million, what would you do with it? I’d put half in the bank and spend the other half, giving some to family and charity and blowing the rest.

But we didn’t win a million. McMurray did.

What did you do with it?

“I haven’t done anything,” McMurray says Thursday afternoon from his hauler in the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield.

You haven’t spent any?

“The week has been really busy,” McMurray says. “I got to spend Sunday with my family. Then Monday was kind of all day at the race shop with a team lunch and doing a lot of media obligations. Then we left at 4:30 in the morning (Tuesday) to go to Kentucky for a Goodyear tire test all day and all day Wednesday.

“We got back somewhat early (Wednesday). We land and I’m driving home and Matt Kenseth called and said that we’re having a family get together at his house, so I was over there until about 8.”

McMurray, 37, earned that million. He started second on the race’s 10-lap final segment. He went outside and stuck to the quarter panel of the leader, Carl Edwards. McMurray’s Chevrolet was perfect, and he never stepped off the gas. He blew past Edwards on the outside and cruised to the finish line.

McMurray’s goal was to be on the front row for the final segment. His crew put him in position with a tremendous final pit stop. A year ago most of them were new enough to the sport that they were backups on his or other crews.

Crew chief Keith Rodden made the right call. McMurray made the final dramatic pass.

“To get to make the move, it’s like every vein in your body is bulging because you’re so pumped out,” he says.

McMurray’s reward was $1 million. And it’s just sitting there, wasting away, unspent and perhaps unwanted.

“I’m really frugal,” says McMurray. “Like, I don’t waste money on things. And I’m really lucky to have everything I have. When (wife) Christy and I were going to have our first kid I remember thinking, ‘I hope I can I afford it.’ That sounds silly because I’m really blessed. But I worry about money every day.”

Are you frugal or cheap?

“Frugal I would say,” says McMurray. “Early in my career I bought a few items that I lost a lot of money on. I built my first house and every time they said, ‘Do you want to this?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They told me, ‘You’ll never get your money back.’

“But it’s very seldom that I do not buy everybody’s lunch. And at dinner I always pick up the tab. So I’m not cheap. I’m not into wasting money.”

What do you drive?

“A Tahoe, a free car from Chevy,” says McMurray.

You buy clothes?

“I go shopping once a year and I don’t have any clothes at home,” he says. “I have the same eight pair of jeans I bought two or three years ago and I still wear them.”

That’s frugal.

“Frugal?” asks Felix Sabates. “He’s cheap.”

McMurray drives for Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates, and he and Sabates are close. Sabates says McMurray is like a grandson – a grandson who does not like to spend money.

Says Sabates: “I told him after the race, ‘Now you can afford to put an air-conditioner in your house.’

“He’s building a house. I promise he knows how many stones the builders put in his driveway. He goes out and counts them.”

Sabates counted on McMurray when he was hospitalized a few months ago for a “heart issue.” Sabates says McMurray was the lone team member to check on him every day.

Speaking of checks, there’s that $1 million, by now probably covered with dust. Christy McMurray went to a birthday party at driver Casey Mears’ house Tuesday, and drivers such Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon asked her what she was going to buy with the million.

Even they, who are not unaccustomed to money, figure the McMurrays ought to spend some of it.

“What I thought was I can use that for my kids’ college,” McMurray says.

How old are your kids?

Says McMurray: “1 1/2 and 3 1/2.”

This is a wise man. By the time they get to college, $1 million might not be enough.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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