“ I tell all these guys I ’ m racing with that I got lucky just because of Clayton being in the right place and John not racing this year ,” Stewart says . “ It was the perfect opportunity for him to help me . It ’ s all been working out . It ’ s definitely Clayton and Chris [ Boudreau ] and Johnny [ Smith ]. It ’ s the only reason why we ’ re here like this . I can remember how to drive a little bit , but that ’ s it .”
Stewart isn ’ t giving himself enough credit , as he ’ s been one of the most consistently quick leavers in the class . He won on a holeshot in the Summer Shootout final round to earn his second win , the first coming just a couple races earlier at Norwalk . better than I thought we would ever be .”
Stewart and Murphy first started racing together in 1989 when Stewart bought his first brand-new door car and had Murphy put it together for him . When Stewart decided to return from his quarter-century hiatus , the two linked back up again so Murphy and his Chassis Engineering team could convert Stewart ’ s current car , Todd Hoerner ’ s former Mountain Motor Pro Stock car , over to Outlaw 632 trim .
“ After [ putting together Stewart ’ s first car ] we just started racing together and literally hit it off ,” Murphy says . “ We both had the same goals . We ’ re both extremely competitive but very humble . it
We ’ ve been rolling ever since .
“ I have nothing to hide at this point ,” Murphy asserts . “ It started with a pain-related issue and it got out of control after eight years of taking pain meds and listening to doctors and all kinds of other crap . It got to a point that I was out of control and there ’ s a lot of things that had happened in the previous couple of years that I never dealt with . It sucked to go through , but it was the best thing that ever happened to me . Having great friends , obviously my wife [ Kelley ] and my mom and everyone else behind me , kind of pushing me along – not just babying me , but pushing me along to do the right thing and do
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“ It makes it easy when you have somebody who you know can drive and can step up whenever he needs to and will give you good feedback ,” Murphy says of Stewart ’ s driving . “ There were some growing pains in that respect just because he hadn ’ t driven in 25 years , but he came right back to it . Within the first four laps going down the racetrack he was doing a burnout nice and easy like he used to . I think we were in the 4.20s literally the first test session , which was way makes it easy when you can be friends and go to a race and have fun . Just 100 percent have fun . We cut up and laugh and joke . If he does something wrong , we ride him all day long . If we do something wrong , he does the same to us . It ’ s a lot of fun .”
Just as the 2021 season was a momentous return for Stewart , it was also a meaningful recovery for Murphy , who sat out part of the 2020 season to go to rehab for prescription drug abuse .
“ That was right when we got the car and right when we started putting the motor program together ,” Murphy says . “ That took a lot for me to get through . Thank God I did . Mentally , physically , everything , I ’ m 100 percent better than I was . Daryl didn ’ t jump ship and grab somebody else to run the program , he sat out that year and just waited for me to get better . good – it made it easier .”
Going through rehab and taking a step back from racing made Murphy realize he was a bit burnt out . He ’ s learned to set limits on his workload , while going racing with his longtime friend has refueled his passion for racing .
“ My passion is racing and my job is the same ,” Murphy says . “ To do your hobby seven days a week sometimes kind of sucks . But it ’ s fun now , where before it was kind of a job . I was on the road 40 weeks a year and it was just getting out of control . Stepping back from that and having someone like [ Stewart ] just basically say , ‘ Whatever you want to do . If you want to go race , we ’ ll go race . If you don ’ t , we don ’ t . You control everything we do as far as that stuff goes .’ That ’ s been a blessing .”
Murphy ’ s recovery has also paid dividends at
90 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 173