NASCAR Media Conference
February 16, 2010
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference with a very special guest, our brand-new Daytona 500 champion, Jamie McMurray, who drives the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. Jamie won the 500 in his very first Sprint Cup Series event with his new team, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, with Felix Sabates. This week he and the rest of the competitors head to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for Sunday's Auto Club 500.
Jamie, before we get started, we've been getting a lot of response and outreach from our fans on Twitter. One of the them said to thank you personally for all the tweet updates this week that you've been doing on your champion's tour in New York and California.
We want to start off with a question from Susan in Massachusetts. Simple question, but meaningful. She wants to know, now that you've had a chance for it to sink in, thus far, what has been the best part of being the Daytona 500 champion.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, for me it's like learning how special this really is. You know, I've told everyone like Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, they all sent me text messages and said, You need to really enjoy the media tour and everything that goes along with this and make it fun, take pictures, take it all in.
It's just really hard to explain like how special all this has been to me. I mean, winning the race was unbelievable, but everything else that goes along with it, whether it's the talk shows or just the media coverage that you get for your team and your sponsor is unbelievable. To listen to the media tell their story of what they were thinking when they were watching the race, it's just been awesome.
HERB BRANHAM: As well it should be. Congratulations to you. We'll go to questions now for our Daytona 500 champion, Jamie McMurray.
Q. The other night, after the race, you said you typically enjoyed the restrictor plate races. I thought I remembered back in the day that you actually kind of hated them when you were first starting out. Can you tell me if that's true, and if your thinking on that as evolved? The fact that you've won three of these now, is there some secret that you picked up along the way or is it just a matter of you knew what you were doing, just staying out of trouble?
JAMIE McMURRAY: To answer the first part, if you interview any driver that's wrecked in a restrictor plate race, you interview them within 20 minutes after being wrecked, they're all going to say they don't like it. There's nothing more frustrating than being caught up in one of the big wrecks we have at Daytona or Talladega when you're trying to stay out of trouble. Typically they're not someone's fault, it's the circumstances.
If I said that, I would say it's based on being wrecked close after being crashed. Getting to win the three plate races, you know, I've been really lucky to be in the right place at the right time, to get through the race, not get crashed.
I've had three or four of them that I thought I was going to win with four or five laps to go and I didn't. I honestly with 10 laps to go in the Daytona 500 didn't think I was going to be able to get to the front. It's just circumstances put me in a good position, then I was able to get the right pushes from other drivers at the right time.
Q. I was wondering what you think the win will do as far as your stature and how people view you both from your fellow drivers within the garage, then the general public as well?
JAMIE McMURRAY: You know, I really don't know. I don't know if that will change or how it might change. I can tell you when you listen to guys that have won the Daytona 500 before and they introduce them as the Daytona 500 champion, I really look forward to that part. That's exciting. It's an honor to get to be in that club or environment with those other drivers.
I got a text message from Dale Jarrett the night of the race afterwards. It was very simple and very short. It said, Hey, it's D.J. Welcome to the club. I was like, Wow, what a great text message.
Q. Do you think people will look at you as a more talented driver now or do you feel like you need to win a non-restrictor plate race for that to happen?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Honestly, I don't care. I don't care how they view me as or what they view me as. You get in a racecar as a driver, and you drive your butt off every time you get in it. If you win the race, you win the race. If you don't, you gave it everything you had.
I mean, not to be negative, I just don't care what they think.
Q. The Daytona 500 is like the Kentucky Derby, visible even to people who don't follow NASCAR. And people who say drivers aren't athletes, NASCAR is just left turns, that kind of thing. What can you communicate to that audience, the broader audience, the Regis and Kelly audience, about the demands of the sport?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Are you asking me if you think you're an athlete if you race a car?
Q. I think you are. There's a lot of the same old jokes about the southern sport, left turns, that kind of stuff. What do you say to people who feel that way?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I mean, everybody has an opinion of that. I'll tell you, you know, does our sport require the same skills at football or baseball? No. I will tell you if you put any other athlete from any other sport in a racecar in Sonoma, California, when it's 140 degrees in the car, you tell them to sit in there and drive their heart out for three hours, when they get out, they're going to be as worn out as any sport that you can do.
Certainly there's times when it's easier than other times. It takes a different set of skills. The mental focus and the physical ability is different than other sports. But that's a really hard thing to defend. So, you know, it's tough for me to answer your question there.
Q. Is it all starting to sink in now?
JAMIE McMURRAY: It really is. I think getting to go do David Letterman and Regis and Kelly, when you walk in and you meet them, they will tell you they maybe watched the race, they know who you are immediately, it makes it all real.
I honestly have been to New York before. I've walked around. I don't know that I've ever been recognized. I can't believe in just the 24 hours that I've been here the amount of people that have found me and have brought their USA Today paper up and had me sign it. I can't believe how popular that race is and how, by winning it, how many people realize who you are all of a sudden.
Q. You're going now to a stretch of intermediate tracks where that comprises the bulk of the schedule. Having gotten your first victory on one, how much do you build on that to try to build on what you've done at the 500 now that you've moved into another realm?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, I'm going to base this on Juan's performance last year at mile-and-a-half tracks, the level of equipment that the EGR cars are right now. I mean, they have a solid setup and they build obviously very fast cars. They have great engines. They have really good setups to go back to all these tracks. I feel like they're developing even better cars right now than what they had last year. That's so important because if you stay where you were last year, you'll be left behind.
I mean, it will be important to run well this weekend. But that's honestly a really good track for me. I think average finish-wise that's been one of my best tracks. I look forward to getting there. I haven't been in one of their cars on a mile-and-a-half. With the testing we have done at Disneyworld and New Smyrna, we unloaded at both those places with the setup that the 42 team liked in their previous tests, and the car drove really well for me.
I expect to get to Fontana, be able to unload with the setup that Juan ran last year and be really close. The 42 ran great there last year. I just don't see any reason why we're not going to be able to unload there and be really good.
Q. I know it was a very emotional win for you. It was both in Victory Lane and when you came into the media center. Quite often we don't see that kind of real true emotion out of athletes. I was wondering if you would share what you were thinking about when you were composing yourself, all those things were going through your mind. Were you thinking about yourself as a little kid, your family? Just share what you were really thinking about then.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, to be honest, I was thinking, You need to stop crying and answer the question is what was going through my head (laughter). The harder you try, the worse it gets.
But honestly, I mean, I just had running through my head that I just won the Daytona 500. I think the reason I got so emotional is because my wife had brought it up a couple of times earlier in the week, like, What is it going to mean if you win this race this weekend, if you win the Daytona 500? You know, I don't know that I had ever asked myself that question before. So she asked me that a few times leading up to the race. Then we ran really well in the Shootout. You know, we had talked in the bus before the race, What if we win? Then all of a sudden it became a reality.
No driver is going to prepare himself for how he's going to feel when he wins America's biggest stock car race. You get out in Victory Lane, and they stick the microphone in your face, and they ask you the question. I just, you know what, had a million things running through my head at once. I thought about Christy asking me that question. I just broke down. It's real, it's actually happening.
Q. In so many years Chip has always had that question, What about the NASCAR team? If you could speak about how he will be grateful not to have to deal with that so much now.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I have to say I am happy to give Chip his Daytona 500 victory. Obviously, Juan I guess has given him the other two wins. So, you know, I mean, to get to have all of us be together and get to be able to do that for Chip, it's really special.
The NASCAR team, when I came there in 2002, they were leading the points. Their NASCAR program was awesome at the time. It certainly had some troubling years. But they have a great group of guys that work at that shop right now. Everyone from, you know, the managers to everyone that works throughout the organization, I mean, they're very focused on getting this to where it needs to be.
I think with Juan making the Chase last year, we started off by winning the Daytona 500, I think his NASCAR program is going to be quite impressive this year.
Q. Can you take us through that last lap. At what point did you realize that Junior wasn't going to catch up to you, you were going to be the one to win the Daytona 500? What was going on during that last lap?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, you know, I remember getting in the lead going into turn three, and I was being shoved so fast into the corner that, you know, the first thing I thought was I need to hold my car on the bottom. I have to make sure I stay on this yellow line. If I couldn't keep my left front on the yellow line, I was having to get off the gas coming out of the corner so I didn't hit the wall. I need to stay on the yellow line.
I got the car down. I looked in my mirror and I saw the 88. I was like, I haven't seen him the last few laps. So where did he come from? Then you don't know. You look in the mirror and you can't tell at what rate of speed he's catching you. He is catching you, you know that for sure, because there's a draft.
I just kept bouncing my eyes back and forth from the start/finish line to where he was, trying to gauge, am I going to get to the start/finish line before he gets to me? Once I realized that, I started looking at the flag stand. I was like, It's over. I wish I could express over the telephone the excitement that runs through your body at that point.
Q. I saw where you had tweeted a picture of the trophy in your motor coach, which was pretty cool. Where has the trophy been so far all week? Where is it ultimately going to go?
JAMIE McMURRAY: They told me that I could leave the trophy in Victory Lane and they would ship it to me. I was like, No, I want to take this with me tonight. This is going to my motorhome.
My bus did not go to Fontana. It actually went back to Charlotte. It's probably at my house by now, if I had to guess. I would say that Tim either has it with him or he has driven it over to my house. My mom is actually watching our dogs while we're on this media tour. I'm hoping it's at my house right now.
Q. Thanks for showing some real emotion.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I didn't do it by choice, so you understand that. It is what it is.
Q. When you look at the last few Daytona winners, the last two haven't made the Chase, and the last one hasn't won a Cup race. What sort of challenges do you think face you after winning this race?
JAMIE McMURRAY: That is the media and their stat guy going to work. I don't know that you can really -- I don't really put any thought into basing on who won the previous Daytona 500s 'cause I think that's kind of irrelevant to the rest of your season.
Certainly going and running well at Fontana is the goal from here on out. As far as putting any thought into what the previous three guys have done, I'm not really paying any attention to that kind of stuff.
Q. As Ward Burton famously said, When you win the Daytona 500, you go through a whirlpool of activity over the next few days.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I remember that. That is hilarious.
Q. Tell us what you've done since you left Daytona and what's ahead before Fontana?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, actually I went to bed about 1:00 after the 500 in the morning. I woke up at 4:45. I couldn't sleep. We were so excited about winning. Then we put the car in the Daytona 500 Experience. We did all of the ESPN and SPEED Channel interviews in the 500 Experience, the radio interviews. Then we got on NASCAR's plane and we flew to New York. I had to go buy some clothes. So did Christy, because we didn't have any clothes with us.
I was asked today at a luncheon why none of the NASCAR drivers bring a suit to Daytona with them, knowing if they win, they have to have a suit. I was like, That is a sure way to jinx of yourself of not ever winning the race if you come prepared.
We went to a department store here in New York and I bought a suit. Literally we bought the suit. They tailored it for me at the store. We got in our car that we had driving us around. We drove to Letterman's studio and I had about three minutes to spare before I walked out on stage, did the Letterman show, and came off.
I was worried about being nervous on the show. I didn't have enough time to even think. They literally got my microphone on me in time to go out and do the show. We did that, went to dinner. Then this morning it started all over again. It got up at 4:45 again. Did the local FOX affiliate here in New York City, then Regis and Kelly. Today we did the luncheon. It's been a teleconference.
It is amazing to me how much attention the Daytona 500 winner gets. I mean, I knew it because I've talked to them. But until you live it, you cannot imagine how much there's been.
Q. Do you go home tomorrow?
JAMIE McMURRAY: We're going to San Francisco tonight. I think when I hang up the phone with you guys, we're getting on the NASCAR plane and flying to San Francisco to do it all again tomorrow.
Q. You bought the suit where?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Christy, where did we go shopping at? Bergdorf and Goodman.
Q. A lot of people say there's nothing like that very first win, which you got at Charlotte with Chip back in 2002. How would you compare that victory with winning the Daytona 500?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I said that. I remember for a year afterwards, There will never be another victory like your first one. But, the Daytona 500 is different. There's so much buildup leading up to this race for everyone with all of the interviews you do. Everyone, while you're in Daytona, asks you, What it's it going to mean if you win the Daytona 500? So you've talked about it all week. Then you win. There's so much that goes along with it.
It's so much different than winning any other race. You win any other race, you do Victory Lane, then you go home. You do the teleconference on Tuesday or whenever they have the teleconference from either your race shop or from your house. But you win this race and there's just so much that goes along with it, so much attention.
One of the guys that asked a question earlier, you know, this is our race that people that don't watch NASCAR every single weekend, this is the race they watch. You get like a whole different group of people that become your fan.
Q. It shows I guess how dependent we are on technology. You mentioned a bunch of drivers text messaged you. Did anybody do it old school, come up to you in Victory Lane?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Greg Biffle came up to me in Victory Lane. I'm assuming he was on his way to the media center. Greg and I are friends away from the racetrack. It does not shock me he came over. Then obviously Juan Montoya came over and congratulated me and the entire team. That was really cool of those guys to come over and say congratulations.
Q. Good luck and try to get some sleep.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don't really care about sleep right now. I'm just enjoying the moment.
Q. You came in right away and got a victory in your second race. Was there a feeling that this is going to be easy, then as the year rolls on, what did you think about that?
JAMIE McMURRAY: When I won at Charlotte for Chip initially, Sterling had already won in that car a couple times earlier in the season. That race team was on it, not just the organization, but the 40 team. I mean, they were on their way to being able to contend for the championship. It was a great car to be able to step into.
I never thought it was going to be easy. And actually the following year, we had an opportunity to win four or five races. One of them was the Brickyard. Caution flags just killed us. Ended up costing me two or three victories.
So it never seemed like it was going to be easy. But it was certainly I would say awkward is my word for being able to win in your second start. I mean, I still remember that day, it's pretty clear in my mind. I remember being overwhelmed with the amount of media attention that you got because, you know, when you come from the Truck Series or even the Busch Series, there's not near as much attention paid to those drivers as what the Cup guys get.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks, first of all, to our Daytona 500 champion, Jamie McMurray. Thanks a lot, pal. Enjoy your time on the West Coast before you go to the racetrack. Congratulations again.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thank you very much for having me on.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to the media who participated. As always, we appreciate the coverage.
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