NASCAR Media Conference
May 5, 2010
TRACEY JUDD: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this today's NASCAR cam video teleconference. We're in advance of Saturday's nights NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at historic Darlington Raceway. Today we're joined by Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet that will also carry a very special Bill France, Jr., decal in honor of Mr. France's induction into the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class, that will be on May 23rd in Charlotte.
Jamie is our reigning Daytona 500 winner and currently 19th in the points with two top fives and three top 10 finishes, and he finished 22nd in this race there last year.
Jamie also will pull double duty this weekend. He'll be driving the No. 88 Hellmann's Chevy in Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Jamie won at Darlington in the Nationwide competition back in 2004. On Friday night he'll be making his 175th NASCAR Nationwide Series start.
Jamie, thanks for joining us today.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thanks for having me on.
TRACEY JUDD: We're 10 races into the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season now. Yours started off with that thrilling race at Daytona. You had a thrilling race with that runner-up finish at Talladega. Things have been a bit up and down in between for you, haven't they?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, we've been doing well on the plate tracks. Actually I had fast cars every week. We just have had a hard time getting the finishes out of those.
But, yeah, you go every week and you try to make your car as fast as you can. The guys have given us really good cars. We've made good decisions; we just haven't gotten the finishes. Hopefully we can continue to have the quick cars and get some good finishes out of them.
TRACEY JUDD: We'll now go to the media for questions for Jamie McMurray.
Q. Jamie, I wanted to find out from you, it seems like we've had several examples this year of leaders coming in late in the race, giving up track position, getting back out on the racetrack, slicing and dicing their way up to winning the race. Why has that happened this year more than in past seasons?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think because of three green-white-checkered rule. The crew chiefs are calling the races based on getting three green-white-checkereds, not just one. It was crazy that at like Phoenix we only had one green-white-checkered.
So the crew chief is trying to call the races to what they think is going to suit their team. It makes it a little bit easier if you're not the leader, in the top five, to make that decision. Track position is so important. If you're sixth through 15th, you might as well come get tires and see what you can make up, depending on how many cars are on the lead lap.
Certainly the rule that has come into effect at Daytona this year has changed the outcome of some races and it's made it a lot different race to call when it comes down to the end.
Q. How about your Nationwide Series racing with Dale Jr.? Are you happy to be in that ride, driving some good equipment with Dale Jr.?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah. We had a really good run at Richmond. I thought we had the best car at Talladega. So, yeah, I mean the three races I've run for him, it's been a lot of fun so far. Enjoy working with that team. Look forward to run whatever other races I get to race with them.
Q. Jamie, late last season a lot of us and probably you, too, wondered if you were going to have a ride. Deal comes together late. You win Daytona. We see that 1 car in the top 10 often. Is there any sense of vindication for you, that maybe some people passed you over and now you're performing so well?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, I just seem to be a lot more comfortable at EGR than my years at Roush. That was a tough place to fit into. It's such a big organization. They have so many great racecar drivers over there that it's kind of hard to find your place. I think coming back here, they build really fast cars. It's a lot different environment.
I don't really see it that way. I just see it as I've gotten this great opportunity to come back to EGR and just trying to make the most of it. So I don't look at it as vengeance or however you worded it. I just look at it as a good opportunity.
Q. Do you remember your reaction the first time you drove Darlington Raceway?
JAMIE McMURRAY: First time I went to Darlington you could still pass. I went there and tested with a Busch team at the time. I had watched Mark Martin in I think it was the Winn-Dixie car for the years prior to that murder the field. He'd win with what seemed like laps.
The track was a lot different then because of the give-up that the tires would have. Now that they've repaved it, the tires aren't quite as critical. But it's a really fun racetrack. There's so much history at this place. I don't really know of any drivers that don't enjoy going to Darlington. I wish we could go there twice. There's certainly some tracks that I wish we didn't go to twice, and Darlington is somewhere I wish they could get their second date.
Q. You won a Busch race there. Is there more of a sense of achievement?
JAMIE McMURRAY: When I listen to my stats from there, they don't sound that good. That's been one of my better racetracks. We have had really fast cars there. Really I don't ever remember going there and not running well, we just haven't finished well.
Yeah, that's one of those tracks that I think all the drivers over the past 50 years, it's always been a place that's really hard to win at. It's got a great reputation for being tough. Everybody wants to win at Darlington.
Q. Jamie, in a couple weeks Ganassi is going to have a couple favorites going into the Indy 500. What do you think it would mean to the organization and Chip to become the first team to win Daytona and Indy in the same year?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think it's a very realistic goal, especially after watching the Kansas IRL race. It looks like their oval program is as strong as better than anybody. Dixon and Franchitti are strong at that track.
It would mean a lot a Chip, Target, all of our partners to be able to do that. For Chip, I think it would be really special. I don't know how else to world that. To be the first owner to be able to do that, it would mean a lot.
Q. Is it something that's been talked about around the shop? As it gets closer, do you think it will be?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, you know, we all watch the IRL races. I think when it gets closer and the media does a really good job of promoting that, it will become more and more talked about in the shop.
Really Indy hasn't been a topic of discussion in our shop because they haven't started practicing there yet. I think once you start seeing qualifying day and everything on TV, people will start talking about it more. It will become more and more of a topic around the shop.
Q. You said you felt you did everything right at Talladega. Not winning, did that linger with you for a while or did you put that out of your mind?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I mean, it lingers. It's just part of it, though. When the race is over, I've watched a few of the replays, highlights on TV shows. What was unexpected for me, what I didn't know was going to happen, when he pulled off of my rear bumper, how loose my car was going to get.
Probably what I didn't say in the media center is the lap before when he pushed me through the tri-oval, I was almost on the yellow line. My car was so loose that I was having a hard time hanging onto it. I knew I had to give a little more room. I left a hole down there. If I could go back, I wouldn't have left that gap and I probably would have taken more of a risk on wrecking. I really wasn't expecting my car to get as loose as it did when he pulled out.
The fact is, you want to be in second place, you want to be in Kevin's position at Talladega pushing the guy. The guy leading, the only way you're going to win is if a caution comes out before he makes the pass.
Q. Jamie, you've talked a little bit about the frustrating start after you broke out of the box so great. When does it start getting urgent? You can't be happy at 19th. When do you have to make your move to be part of the Chase?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, I don't know. It hasn't really been frustrating to me because it's really hard to run well, to unload every single week and to run well. That's the biggest challenge. Really there hasn't been a race yet this year that we've showed up that we just don't have the pace; we just haven't been able to get the finishes.
There's not really any frustration there. It's just about showing up this weekend and you hope your car has the same pace it's had all year long and you can put the finish together.
The races are so long that you run well 95% of it, if the pit strategy doesn't work out, if one small thing goes wrong at the end, you don't get a good finish out of it.
The most important thing is to continue running well and have fast cars. The frustrating part is when you show up and you're slow.
Q. When do you start getting alarmed that it's going to get tougher and tougher to get in that 12th spot?
JAMIE McMURRAY: That started in California. As soon as you're not the points leader, you start worrying about that.
But I don't think you can show up every single week and worry yourself about the points. When you show up at races, you show up to win and run as well as you can. If you don't get the finish, it doesn't do you any good to worry about the points or the Chase.
I think everybody pays attention to that. If that's your number one goal, is to worry about points, you're not really doing your job.
Q. Jamie, I was curious, now that you've run the spoiler on a few different types of tracks, is there anything you feel like teams will be working on, red flags about what the spoiler is doing as opposed to the wing?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No. I think NASCAR did a really good job at making the balance of the cars be the same with the spoiler as it was with the wing. For me, it looks better. It's weird because I know all the teams really thought that once we got the spoiler back, it would be critical to get the back of the car back up in the air and get the spoiler up in the air to make more downforce. But that doesn't seem to be as critical as it is with the Nationwide cars and with the old-style Cup cars.
You just continue to work on other things to make more grip and make the balance better of the car. Seems like what worked with the old car with the spoiler is not necessarily working with the Car of Tomorrow. It's constant development, trying to make it better.
I think that the spoiler, in my opinion, I like it better than the wing because of the way it looks and the cars drive fine with it.
Q. Jamie, I've always heard about entering pit road at Darlington under green. Can you describe the process, and how does that pit road entrance compare to other tracks in level of difficulty?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, it was tougher with the old surface because what would happen with the old surface is the pace would slow down three seconds a lap and so it literally felt when you were running around the track, even though you were probably still going 160 miles an hour, you felt like you were crawling. When it came time to get on pit road, you would be aggressive. At first, you didn't realize how fast you were still going and how slick it is.
It's very unique getting on pit road because the track is so far away. There's so much apron and so much area that's paved that we don't race on, it's just a lot different look. I've seen more people, they still miss it because it's tough to get on it, but it's not as tough as it used to be with the old-style surface.
Q. Jamie, how much has your career kind of changed since Daytona? How much has it really changed for you since that win? In addition to that, what do you credit your success to on restrictor plate tracks?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, really the plate track results aren't any different than, I mean, the performance has been over the past five or six years. I've always been pretty fast on plate tracks. It's just about getting in the right place at the right time, and honestly having people help you at the right time and being lucky.
I mean, the plate tracks aren't any different than all the other tracks we go to it. It's just kind of putting yourself in the right position and getting the right breaks at the right time.
Really things haven't changed that much for me since Daytona. Everyone has their own personality. For me, I really enjoy racing at this level. But the whole spotlight part of it or being on TV or being famous part, that doesn't really do anything for me. I just like racing the car. Things haven't really changed a lot by winning the 500 for me.
Q. Jamie, you mentioned earlier how different it is at EGR than Roush. Could you talk a little bit about that, the atmosphere around the shop.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, it's a lot smaller environment, a lot more personal. My relationship with Chip is a lot different than what I had with Jack. I think I only called Jack maybe three times in my four years of being there on the telephone. Typically it was something was wrong or I really needed to talk to him. I mean, I talk to Chip usually every Monday, then normally twice a week I talk to him. Sometimes we call and talk about racing, and sometimes we just talk about life, what's going on, just to say hi.
You know, my relationship with Chip is a lot different than with Jack. It's a completely different organization. It's not quite as big. You know everybody here. I think it just kind of fits my personality probably a little bit better.
Q. What is it like to be Jamie McMurray after coming from Roush and being in the background to Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth? You win the Daytona 500, you become a star overnight. Do you kind of walk around now with more confidence? Are you happy with everything? What is it like to be you right now?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, I think it's hard for me to explain the differences emotionally, the way I felt a year ago and the way I feel right now. I mean, I guess really all I can tell you is just that the people that are around me every day, the people that have been around me for the last four or five years, I don't really feel any different, but all those people keep telling me how happy I act, how much more laid back I act than what I did a year or so ago. That's not something you plan to do or you can do intentionally. It just kind of happens.
I think a lot of it has to do with feeling more at home, feeling more relaxed. I mean, I've just run a lot better also. Performance-wise maybe the finishes haven't been way better, but on-track performance has been a lot better than my time at Roush.
I think that just makes you be more laid back in general.
Q. You mentioned earlier there's so much history at Darlington. Growing up as a kid in Missouri, what do you remember hearing about the Southern 500 at Darlington?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, if I'm going to be honest, I don't remember much about the Southern 500 at all growing up. Where I really learned the history of it is when I finally moved to the South, watching the prerace shows, knowing all the old drivers, seeing highlights, being able to put together the drivers with the cars.
I probably learned more in the last six or seven years just seeing what TV shows, the old footage of the races, then maybe getting to talk to David Pearson, some of the guys that raced there in the old days, hearing their stories.
I mean, I don't remember that being a kid. I don't remember watching the Southern 500 as a kid in Missouri.
TRACEY JUDD: Jamie, we appreciate your time today very much and wish you the very best of luck this weekend at Darlington in the Nationwide race and Saturday night in the Sprint Cup race. Thanks a lot.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thank you.
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