JIM MURPHY WINS SIXTH NTF TITLE; FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Nostalgia Top Fuel champion Jim Murphy loves the Starfish story.
The veteran drag racer had just captured his sixth drag racing series championship (five in the Heritage Series and one in AHRA) yet, he couldn't seem to get the fictional, but inspirational tale out of his head.
For those unfamiliar with the story by Loren Eiseley, an elderly man happens upon a young man on the beach partaking in what appeared to be a futile act. The kid was surrounded by thousands of starfish, which has washed ashore and were in imminent danger of drying out in the sun before high tide could rescue them. One at a time, the kid was tossing them in the ocean.
After the man realized what he was doing, he attempted to counsel the kind-hearted lad, offering, "There must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy never missed a beat, bending over to pick up another and throw it as far as he could. He smiled, "It made a difference to that one.”
In the weeks leading into the California Hot Rod Reunion, Murphy couldn't help but feel like the kid on the beach, though at 75 his younger years are clearly behind him.
Murphy, a successful businessman from Santa Rosa, Ca., has watched over the last few weeks as wildfires have besieged his neighbors and longtime employees. He's watched helplessly as fires have destroyed customers houses as well as wineries his company was responsible for building.
And in time, he plans to toss as many starfish back in the ocean he's able to.
With this raging in his head, it was easy for Murphy to look past a tight championship battle only separating him and Mendy Fry by seven points headed into the Bakersfield, Ca., event.
Murphy gave himself a bit of cushion Saturday evening as he stopped Adam Sorokin in the finals of the rain-delayed Boise event. He needed only to win the semi-final round of Sunday's eliminations to clinch his crown, which he did in beating Sorokin a second time.
Win or lose, Murphy's mind was as far as it could be from the task at hand.
"I don’t really get nervous for these races," Murphy said. "In fact, I was having trouble getting up this weekend because of the fires and stuff up where I live, you know. And so it’s been kind of a little bit depressing all weekend what I’ve had to go through the last two weeks. But I’m very excited to win it, and I’ve got to go home and face a lot of stuff that isn’t going to be pretty."
Though Murphy is clearly one of the more successful drivers in this niche style of drag racing, winning championships was never his primary goal.
"We were just trying to have fun," Murphy admitted.
This fifth championship comes on the 10th anniversary of his first title in 2007.
His racing world was much different back then.
"That was tough because there were 20-30 cars at those races," Murphy recalled. "You know when this thing first started it was very popular. Now we get 10,11,12 it seems like."
Murphy reached the final round of the CHRR but failed to make the call. The victory over Sorokin came at a price as he crossed the finish line the engine expired, spraying him with oil and causing the seasoned veteran to lose sight of the track ahead. He drifted into the retaining wall, and the car went airborne and hit the track hard.
The decision to forfeit the final round was a precautionary measure.
"We kicked a rod out, and I was completely oiled in, I couldn’t see anything," Murphy recalled. "Went over and went up on the wall, and we’re just kind of afraid the chassis might be tweaked."
"I would have certainly loved to race the final," Murphy said. "We had big plans on having the opportunity for a triple crown like the horse racing. And we got to one with Boise, the second one with the championship and would have been great to put a bow on it but we weren’t able to."
The events of the past few weeks have led Murphy to reconsider his future.
"I’m going to have to reevaluate my whole life with the fires and stuff," Murphy said. "That’s going to dramatically change things, and I feel a real obligation to many of the clients I’ve had in the past. We’ll see what happens next year; I’m not sure yet."
"Racing next year is up in the air for now."