NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News David Murray Jr. works on his car Saturday at RPM Speedway in Hays. Murray’s latest win put him at 500 for his career.
Murray drives his modified during a heat race Saturday at RPM.
By NICK SCHWIEN
David Murray crawled out of his car, just like he had done hundreds of times before.
He hugged his wife, smiled and shook hands while taking congratulatory greetings from family, friends and fans.
It seemed the modified driver from Oberlin was well adapted to what he was doing. In fact, he was.
Murray has graced victory lane many times before, and while Saturday's IMCA feature victory at RPM Speedway in Hays might have been passed off by Murray as just another win, it actually was something special.
Murray grabbed his 500th career IMCA feature victory -- a mark that leads the nation and might never be passed.
"We don't set goals quite like that," a humble Murray said. "We just go out to race and try to win as many races as we can. When we hit 300 wins, we were like, 'Geez.' Then we hit 400. Then we started zeroing in on this 500. That was kind of our goal for the season was to try to break the 500 mark, and it came pretty early in the season. I don't know what we'll set now. We'll have to figure out what we want to accomplish."
Murray's 500th win Saturday in Hays came like many of his wins in his career -- in dominating fashion.
Murray started 10th after winning his heat and wasted no time getting to the front. After the first lap, he was fifth. After the second, he was in third. After the third, he was side-by-side with pole-sitter Geoff Jermark for the lead.
On lap four, Murray was in the lead and pulling away for win No. 500.
"We were trying pretty hard, but we weren't going to push the issue to wreck anybody," Murray said about hitting the milestone at RPM. "But we set out to try pretty hard. We kept an eye on the track and made some adjustments throughout the night -- and tried to figure out their watering sequence. But things worked out pretty well for us. The setup was pretty much what I wanted."
Once at the point, Murray was gone like the wind, and the strong southerly wind wasn't even able to slow him down.
"I'm motivated. I feel more motivated," Murray said. "The year before last year, we won 44 races and were chasing points and ended up not winning it. Last year, we didn't push it hard, kind of had a good year off. I just feel motivated this year. I want to go race, and I want to do good. I guess I've got a better mindset on it this year."
The four-time IMCA national champ and the 2004 modified winner at the Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa, began racing in the division in 1991 and has averaged nearly 25 wins a season since.
"We just wanted to try to win some races," Murray said about that first season of piloting a modified. "I think we won six that year. Then the next year, we started figuring the cars out, and each year, things just kind of progressed. ... We just wanted to win some races and have some fun, and if we're not having fun racing, we're going to go do something else."
Since that first year, Murray has been on a steady climb upward. It's one he doesn't want to end anytime soon.
"Probably my highlight of my career was winning the Super Nationals," he said. "But this is a milestone. You always say in your career you climb the mountain. Sometimes you hit the top and start falling down the other side. So I just want to stay up there for a while. I don't want to come down that other side."
While Murray paced the field, another driver in his own David Murray Racing chassis was making an impressive move through the field.
Jeremy Frenier started 11th and made move after move to eventually finish second. But Murray had a straightaway lead by the time he got into the runner-up spot.
"He told me before the race that if I had a fast car and a chance to win it to not go easy on him," Frenier said. "I wish we could have had a race at the end."
Instead, Murray was long gone and Frenier had no chance of catching him.
"I'm not one of the guys who pats himself on the back," Murray said. "A lot of the younger guys I talk to I try to help out as much as I can. I can remember being in their shoes, trying to learn as much as I can. That part of it is even more enjoyable, helping them on their car and then watching them do good. I get a lot of satisfaction doing that."
Jermark finished third behind Frenier, and Brendon Gemmill made a strong charge after starting halfway through the field to take fourth.
"We'll take it," Gemmill said. "It was our first time here this year, and we started 12th. It was a solid run, and nothing is tore up."
But the night belonged to Murray.
"It just came along," he said about the monumental win. "We've had a lot of success, and a lot of good people help us along the way."
Nick Tubbs took the lead on lap 12 when Terry Cunningham's hood folded up and impeded his view in the stock car feature. Tubbs led the rest of the way for another win -- and fence climb -- in Hays. His brother, Jeff Tubbs, finished second, while Jason Rogers was third and Austin Carter was fourth.
Jake Krone emerged from a caution-filled Northern sport mod feature with a victory. Jason Nelssen was second, and Clay Money was third. Jesse Levin took fourth.
Aaron Honas led all 15 laps of the hobby stock feature to make a trip to victory lane. Jeromy Wagner was second, with Brian Stich in third and Austin Tammen in fourth.
Trevor Schmidt got his first feature win this season at RPM in the sport compact class. Monte Honas was second, followed by Shyla Hughes in third.