Not a bat, ball or glove was in sight as Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam joined reigning Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray inside the Daytona International Speedway on June 22. However, catching was the first item on the docket. These two champions were brought together by Bass Pro Shops — a sponsor they share — to promote the upcoming Coke Zero 400 (July 3) and the fishing seminar to be given by VanDam the day of the event.
"Fishing this little lake inside the Daytona track is really special," said VanDam as he and McMurray shared a boat attempting to catch bass in front of the media that had congregated for the special event. Understanding the intense crossover between fishing participants and NASCAR fans (according to Bass Pro research, 70 percent of their fishing clientele have also bought NASCAR paraphernalia), the company found the perfect match in VanDam (a diehard racing fan) and McMurray (a diehard angler). And when VanDam won bass fishing's world championship only 10 days after McMurray won the crown jewel of NASCAR events, it seemed the company was standing behind the perfect pair.
There's one!" signified KVD's first Daytona Speedway bass. It wasn't big, but size hardly mattered.
"It is impressive to watch someone of Kevin's caliber!" said McMurray, who has been fishing ever since he could walk. "I feel like I should just set my rod down, watch and learn."
After another couple of bass were boated and a brief lunch, it was KVD's turn to take notes, as the two raced the media in carts on a track created within the Speedway's infield.
Both McMurray and VanDam started behind the media throng, but that didn't last long. McMurray won all four races, with KVD coming in second several times.
"I just followed Jamie and tried to learn from watching him make moves. There is definitely a science to racing!" VanDam said.
But the most interesting game of catch was the one discussed after the fishing and racing was over. For KVD, it's the Bassmaster Angler of the Year opportunity that has materialized after two very strong events (winning Kentucky Lake and placing sixth at Fort Gibson).
"My goal was to work my way into the top 12 and qualify for the postseason. Now that I've made it, I know I need to do really well to try and catch Skeet," VanDam admitted. Skeet Reese has a 31-point lead on KVD based on the yearlong points race going into the final two events.
McMurray is still trying to make the top 12 in the Sprint Cup Series points race. Right now, with half the season behind him, he sits in 16th, a scant 142 points away from the cut.
"I have a little catching up to do, but I try not to focus on the points too much. I just try to race to the best of my ability every time I hit the track," McMurray explained.
His next chance to make up points will be the July 3 race. Daytona International Speedway is offering a sweet deal for the angler/NASCAR fan with a "Reels and Wheels" ticket package (www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com). You get a day of racing and special fan benefits; a meet-and-greet with McMurray; plus you'll get an exclusive fishing seminar by KVD — a pretty impressive grab for those fans out there who enjoy both sports.