Before practice, McMurray also played catch with veteran quarterback Chad Henne and the team’s first-round pick, Blake Bortles.
Chitwood was so happy with the experience he decided to keep his football gear on for the rest of the day.
“I’m going to walk into the office [at the speedway] and see if anyone notices,” Chitwood said.
As the race draws closer, Chitwood continues to expand his comfort zone to bring in new fans. Unlike the Daytona 500, which draws a national and international crowd, the track counts largely on fans from North and Central Florida for the July race. And that requires a lot more work.
“This is a regional event. We focus on the Florida market,” Chitwood said.
Instead of competing for entertainment dollars, the sports industry now embraces an attitude of working together. The Jaguars also work closely with the PGA Tour and The Players Championship.
“We’re in the promotion business,” Chitwood said. “We have to get people off their couches and attend live sporting events. So whether it’s a Jacksonville Jaguars football game or the Daytona 500, we’ve got to do things like this so fans know how cool it is to attend games.”
Drivers who win races and are part of NASCAR’s Winner Circle Program, a promotional agreement, are required to make three track-related appearances a year. McMurray said Tuesday’s practice was the best one he’s done in his 12-year Sprint Cup Series career.
“... It’s so much different when you get out there as opposed to watch you see on television,” McMurray said. “The coach, all the players have been awesome to work with.”
McMurray tried to introduce himself to most players. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley was comfortable having Chitwood and McMurray in uniform, working next to his players.
“It’s crazy how big all the guys are and then to see how small some of them are, too. You see them go up against each other, going for the same piece of property,” McMurray said.
Jacksonville will wrap up its OTAs and minicamp in time for the Coke Zero 400. Jaguars players will be invited then to come to McMurray’s arena — a 2.5-mile racetrack — to get a feel for his playbook.
The Jaguars increased their global footprint when they agreed to play a home game in London from 2013-16. Now, owner Shad Khan and team president Mark Lamping are looking to increase the team’s regional reach.
One option is moving a preseason game out of Jacksonville and around the state, chiefly to Orlando (to capitalize on the arrival of Bortles) and even Daytona, which is undergoing a $400 million renovation and envisions hosting NFL and college football games, soccer matches and concerts. Chitwood said the speedway and the Jaguars have not had “a formal discussion” but the sides have a “great relationship.”
In 2016, Bristol Motor Speedway will host a Tennessee-Virginia Tech football game. The Volunteers have long since sold their allotment of 40,000 tickets. Attendance could exceed 150,000 fans.
Ryan O’Halloran contributed to this report.
For an inside look at Jamie McMurray's visit with the Jaguars, watch this video produced by Jaguars.com: McMurray Visits OTA's