Jamie McMurray to honor Joplin during Coca-Cola 600

Saturday, May 28, 2011 | 3:23 p.m. CDT

CONCORD, N.C. — Jamie McMurray was confused, then stunned, when a friend in his hometown of Joplin, Mo., sent him a picture early in the week.

"I didn't even know what he had sent me," the Sprint Cup driver said Saturday. "Then I did figure it out because one part left of my house was actually the address left on the front wall."

Although McMurray and the rest of his family moved from Joplin to North Carolina more than a decade ago, he is taking an active role in raising money for the tornado-ravaged city. McMurray has partnered with primary sponsor Bass Pro Shops and Springfield, Mo.-based Convoy of Hope to help the victims of the monster tornado that packed 200 mph winds.

"Joplin, Mo." will appear in large letters across the side of his No. 1 Chevrolet during Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600.

"I think it's really hard for me to explain to you guys when you see the pictures to know what it used to look like," said McMurray, who indicated he last visited Joplin four or five years ago. "It makes it more real for somebody when you know what the school used to look like or the hospital or that area and see how destroyed it is. It's incredible the damage the tornado did."

McMurray said not only was the house he grew up in leveled May 22, the tornado "took the whole neighborhood out" and destroyed much of the high school McMurray attended. The death toll reached 139 on Saturday.

"Everyone that I know, or at least friends talking to friends, I haven't known anyone that's lost their life," McMurray said. "I have a lot of friends that have lost their homes."

McMurray said crew members and sponsors have offered to assist in the relief efforts. McMurray and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris will fly to Morris' hometown of Springfield, Mo., on Thursday to collect food and supplies from Convoy of Hope. They're then scheduled to go to Joplin and will join the mayor and chief of police on a tour of McMurray's old neighborhood.

"I had a friend that lives there and has witnessed everything tell me that Joplin would recover. He just didn't know if it would recover in our lifetimes," McMurray said. "I know there will be a big effort on my part over the next years to come to help with the hospital, the schools and the families."


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