Need For Speed: Valley driver trying to become professional driver on European circuit

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Valley native Matt McMurry is trying to make it as a professional racecar driver. (Source: twitter.com/mcmurrymatt) Valley native Matt McMurry is trying to make it as a professional racecar driver. (Source: twitter.com/mcmurrymatt)
Chris McMurry will watch his son race in Austria this weekend. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Chris McMurry will watch his son race in Austria this weekend. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Matt is studying Aerospace Engineering at UC Irvine and made the Dean’s List as a freshman. (Source: twitter.com/mcmurrymatt) Matt is studying Aerospace Engineering at UC Irvine and made the Dean’s List as a freshman. (Source: twitter.com/mcmurrymatt)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

While some college kids dream of traveling around Europe, Valley native Matt McMurry is driving around the continent at 200 miles per hour.

“That part is the easiest part,” says McMurry. “You’re just going straight. The harder part is all the turns because it requires more skill and it's more technical. It's not just holding the steering wheel straight and push the pedal down as far as it will go.”

When he was 16, McMurry, now 19, became the youngest driver ever to drive the famed 24 Hours of Les Mans in France. The Brophy Prep grad returned to Les Mans this year as his team’s lead driver.  His team finished 15th. 

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“The minutes leading up to when you're about to race it's like, wow, this is about to happen," says McMurry. "I can definitely tell the difference. Last time I went there I did 185 or 190. This time we were doing 200, 205."  

McMurry comes from a racing family. His father Chris raced as an amateur all around the Valley. All three of his sons raced at the local go-kart tracks, with McMurry making the decision to try to drive professionally. He wrote down the goal of getting to Les Mans for the first time in a writing assignment for the seventh grade. McMurry discussed his goals with his parents and went “all in.”

“He’s climbing a huge mountain. It's sort of Mt. Everest-type mountain. It's not easy to be a professional race car driver,” says his dad Chris, winner of the 2005 12 Hours of Sebring. “It's a little big like having your 19-year-old kid go play in the NFL, to get thrown into the deep end it can be a little bit tough. You also learn faster, the lessons are harder, and I think you accelerate more quickly.”

His education doesn’t end when he leaves the race track. Matt is studying aerospace engineering at UC Irvine and made the Dean’s List as a freshman.  He’s carrying a full schedule of classes and races and doesn’t plan on taking his foot off the gas.

“It’s important to set really big ones (goals),” says Matt. “Even if you can’t accomplish it, you still learn so much and grow so much on the way. You'd be surprised what you can do. No one has started as a professional or an expert."

Matt will have his dad on hand this weekend in Austria for a race at the Red Bull Ring and return to the U.S. for a race in Atlanta in August. His most fierce competition might come from his own household. When his whole family is together, Chris still likes to take his three sons out to the local track.

“At times all four of us will go out to an indoor karting track," says Chris. "Matt's gotten good enough where he wins most of the races. He knows if he passes me, 'Pow!' I'm hitting him!"

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