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Feb 13, 2014 - 08:32 PM
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2014 Daytona 500 Q&A (Media Day): NASCAR Sprint Cup - Jamie McMurray
Posted by: newsla on Feb 13, 2014 - 08:27 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Daytona 500 Q&A (Media Day): NASCAR Sprint Cup - Jamie McMurray


YOU ARE IN THE UNLIMITED. WHAT IS THAT RACE LIKE? DOES IT HELP YOU FOR THE 500?

"Well, I think you can always learn when you get on the track. I don’t think the cars are going to draft any differently with the small spoiler changes they’ve made. But it always takes a while to get used to drafting again; especially in a large pack. So, I think you’re just way more comfortable by the time the Duels get here because in practice you maybe get one draft and it lasts for ten laps, but you don’t have that draft that it’s five laps to go when it gets really chaotic and you’re trying to put yourself in a good position.

 

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"So, I think yeah, there are some pluses to being in the Unlimited race. I watched it last year and if you’re a driver in this series, you want to race anytime there is some fun on the track. The one thing about the Duels being at night that came to my mind, is that it used to be we would run this Unlimited race and it would be nighttime and everyone’s cars handled really well. And then when we got to Thursday, everyone said if you could make my car handle like it did at night, we’d have a chance to win. Well, now we’re going to run two races at night and then the 500 is going to be in the daytime. So I think there are going to be some surprises for guys that thought their cars handled really well Saturday night and on Thursday and then maybe on Sunday it will change there. So, that will be interesting to see how that works out."

DO YOU LOOK AT HOW WELL YOU’VE RUN IN THE PLATE RACES AND THINK THAT’S A REALLY GOOD SHOT FOR US TO EITHER STAY WITHIN THE CHASE FIELD OR GETTING IN THE CHASE FIELD WITH WINS THERE?

"I don’t look at it any different this year. I’ve always enjoyed plate racing. It’s been in streaks. So I’ve been able to win a couple in a row. And then you go where you can’t even finish one. So I don’t know. I look at it probably the same way everyone else does. Everyone has a chance to win, but you also have a chance of finishing last if you get wrecked early on. So, I look forward to them. They’re challenging, for sure."

CAN YOU SHARE WITH THE FANS A FEW OF THE INTENSE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL MOMENTS YOU HAVE IN THE CAR?

"I think it’s different at every track. Certainly at Daytona and Talladega there’s not a lot of physical demands. For the most part, if you’re leading, you race out of your rear view mirror the whole time. Or, if you’re in the back of the pack, you’re just trying to figure out which lane to get in. So, it’s mentally challenging I think at those places. When you go somewhere like a road course, for me, and I assume it’s the same for most of these guys, Sonoma is not that bad because there’s not a lot of load and there’s a lot of left-hand turns. At Watkins Glen, the carousel and the esses, you’re not used to turning right and it seems like your back and your neck get a lot more tired. So that’s a little bit unique to those two. But that’s really hard to explain if you’ve never sat in a car."

WITH ALL THE PERSONNEL CHANGES THAT HAVE GONE ON, DO YOU NEED A ‘CHEAT SHEET’ TO KEEP TRACK OF WHO YOU ARE RACING WITH?

"Yeah, I don’t think you’re going to have to be concerned with who you’re racing with. I don’t view that the guys are going to race any differently than they have. It didn’t matter if it was the playoff format or the Daytona 500, you race to win; and I don’t think anyone is going to change their mindset of how they are racing with the rules changes. But qualifying will be a lot different. And there are lot of different rules of what the adjustments will be. But man, I think when we get to the third race it’ll just be normal and you’ll know what’s going on and it will just be like we’ve always done it that way."

WELL, LIKE THE NO. 20 USED TO BE TONY STEWART AND NOW IT’S MATT KENSETH

"Oh yeah, that does take a while. I saw Chase Elliott walking in here (Media Day) in a Napa suit and I thought that Martin (Truex Jr.) had grown his hair out (laughter). So, that does take a while. I wasn’t even trying to be funny (laughs). So, that does take a while but it’s kind of like what I was saying earlier. I think by the second or third race you just get acclimated to who is in what car and you just know. It’s difficult in the Daytona 500 because you spend a lot of the race looking in the rear view mirror and you base it on seeing the Dollar General car or the Lowe’s car and you just know who is in those cars. And when they change, that does take a little while to get used to."

WHY DO YOU THINK NASCAR MADE SO MANY CHANGES?

"Well, I don’t know why they made the changes. My gut tells me they did it to make it more exciting for fans watching on TV and I think it’s good. It’s really hard when Brian (France) came along and said they were going to do this Chase format; no one likes that. And for the most part I think that’s made a lot of the championships more exciting when it got down to the last ten races. If this can make it more exciting again and make the fans that are watching on TV more excited about it, I think it’s great. At the same time, when you’ve been in the same pattern for years, it’s hard to accept that. But I think most of the changes they’ve done, I think it’s all going to work out really well."

IS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING CHANGES THAT A WIN VIRTUALLY GETS YOU IN THE CHASE?

"Yeah, for me it is, for sure. I think that I like that. I think it’s great that if you’re able to win, you get to be in the playoff. I think it’s great."

HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK THESE CHANGES ARE TO KEEPING THIS SPORT FRESH AND GETTING THE FAN BASE UP? IT’S NO SECRET THAT NASCAR HAS STRUGGLED WITH THAT.

"It seems like a lot of sports are changing the way they’ve done things for years to bring more interest and make it more exciting, so I think NASCAR has done a really good job of not just standing still and trying to make sure they are ahead of the game."

HOW DO YOU ASSESS THE HEALTH OF THIS SPORT NOW COMPARED TO WHEN YOU CAME IN?

"Well, I think some things are better and some maybe aren’t. But I don’t know that has to do with just the sport. When you look at where the economy was in 2007 and ’08 compared to where the economy is now, we’re still not back to the same level we were at. So, I don’t know if that’s completely fair to base in on just our sport, compared to where the world is."

DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST WHEELS AS A KID?

"My first wheels? I think it was a Hot Wheel with lots of duct tape on the front tire for grip."

DO YOU LIKE THE IDEA OF THE LAST RACE OF THE SEASON BEING IN THE TOP FOUR? OR IS THAT A LITTLE BIT OF A REACH FOR YOU?

"Well, that’s a lot different than what we’ve ever had. My only comment when we had our NASCAR meeting was that I didn’t know that it was completely fair to have the last race at the exact same race track every single weekend. I think it’s different in football and baseball because even though there are some differences in indoor/outdoor or the baseball field. Race tracks are completely different. And you have tracks that some guys are really good at and then you have tracks that guys struggle at. And I didn’t know that it was completely fair for the championship to be decided at a track that one guy is dominant at or track that another guy struggles at every year. But it’s the same for everybody. So I don’t know. I think until we live a year of it, it’s hard to give an opinion of it because you just don’t know everything that’s going to play out."

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS THAT THE CHAMPIONSHIP MIGHT NOT MEAN AS MUCH AS IT ONCE DID?

"Again, like most things, once you do it two or three times, I think it will be normal. We said the same thing when the Chase came into play. I don’t know how many years ago that was; it seems like forever now, ten, that that would have less meaning and I don’t think it’s been that way at all. I should have just said, ‘No’".

INAUDIBLE

"I never got to race with Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. or Richard Petty. But my opinion is that our sport is tougher than it’s ever been because of the level of good teams. Even from when I came in in 2001, 2002, the amount of quality teams is more now than it’s ever been. Not just because I’m living it right now, but to me what Jimmie (Johnson) has been able to do has been completely fascinating.

"It just seems like they don’t ever have a bad race. They’re bad race is tenth. Where, everyone else at some point has a 25th place, just missed it today. They don’t ever seem to have that. It’s incredible how on their worst day, with the back of the car knocked off after he’s crashed, he can still finish ninth or 10th."

THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF CHANGES IN NASCAR, BUT THERE HAS ALSO BEEN A LOT OF CHANGE AT CHIP GANASSI RACING. COMPARATIVELY SPEAKING, HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE CHANGE?

"Well, there’s a lot of difference with the drivers and crew chiefs. And what I would say is that with all of the new people, Keith (Rodden) on my car, and with Kyle (Larson) being in the No. 42, that the number one goal was to make sure that everyone worked well together and you didn’t have people trying to pull the rope in two different directions. And our testing has been just amazing during the off-season. We’ve been to the Charlotte test, Nashville; we did a short track test with a lot of cars added and at speedways, our cars have been significantly faster than what they were last year. I don’t know exactly why, but speed-wise it’s been better. The mentality in the shop and everyone’s attitude in the shop is better than it’s ever been. We had our team luncheon yesterday and since I’ve been racing, I haven’t been involved with a group of people that are as positive and everyone fighting for the same goal as what we have right now. I would say that yeah, the change is better than expected."

YOU HAVEN’T HAD MUCH TIME TO WORK WITH KYLE LARSON, BUT WHAT’S YOUR EARLY INDICATION OF HOW THAT DYNAMIC WILL WORK WITH YOU BEING THE OLDER, MORE EXPERIENCED DRIVER?

"Well I think it’s going to be fine. Kyle is really quiet. So you have to work to get an answer out of him or a question out of him. He’s very quiet and very calm. He’s very much the opposite of Juan (Pablo Montoya). It’s different. But when we have our meetings now, it’s more diplomatic. Everyone asks a question and then listens to the answer. It wasn’t necessarily always that way. So, I think to me, that side of it is all positive."

INAUDIBLE

"I don’t think so because I’m the same way. I listen as well as I speak. Kyle hasn’t lived all the experiences that I have; or the crew chiefs or some of the other team guys. And he’s a good listener. And at the same time, he’s really talented and we are listening to Kyle, as well. But I don’t know. It’s a lot different environment this year than what it’s been in the past few (years). And to me, all for the better."

YOU SEEM TO HAVE A GROWING KIND OF HENDRICK CONNECTION. HAVE YOU SEEN THAT MATERIALIZE OR SOMETHING TO MAYBE TAP INTO?

"Well, part of the reason that we’ve ended up with so many Hendrick guys is once you hire a couple, their friends work at Hendrick, right, and Hendrick has a lot of employees, too. Some of it’s been coincidental, but some of it’s come because when a guy over there is looking for a job and he’s friends with somebody that works at your place, they interview around and we’ve ended up with a lot of those guys. And then switching to their engine program has helped us when you’re trying to hire someone. The teams have, I think now, a better agreement between all of them of not going and picking from other teams. And our affiliation with Hendrick’s engine program helps us to be able to hire some of their employees."

DO YOU THINK THAT COMBINATION IS SOMETHING THAT MAY PAY DIVIDENDS DOWN THE ROAD?

"Our affiliation with them is different than what Stewart-Haas has because we don’t buy chassis from them. We still build our own cars and put our own bodies on them. So it’s a little bit different, but certainly being affiliated with them and their engine program I think has helped and just being with a General Motors team and the sharing of what information goes around between all the teams I think is beneficial."

ON FATHERS AND SONS IN RACING COMPARED TO BASEBALL, FOOTBALL, AND BASKETBALL

"I don’t know if it’s more true. I know a lot of kids that play soccer and their dads played soccer or baseball growing up that have a really good connection. I think what a little bit of what sets racing apart is when you grow up racing, it’s not a one-hour event that you drive to on Saturday morning and then you drive back and then you go your separate ways. Racing is leaving on Friday and racing all day Saturday and all day Sunday, riding in a car together for ten hours back home to get up and go to school; and to me the bonding experience that you have whether it’s riding in a car and staying in a hotel with him all weekend, to me that is what brings you closer than other sports."

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF GROWING UP RACING WITH YOUR DAD?

"My favorite memory of my dad isn’t one specific thing. And I try to do this with my little boy. My dad, no matter how well I did in the race; whether I won or finished last or crashed, I just remember him always getting in the car, shutting his door, and like reaching over and patting me on the leg and being like, you did a great job today, I’m proud of you. And I’ll never forget that. And so, the memory is great because he always gave me confidence and always built me up and always made me feel special. And I think that is what made me the guy that I am and maybe why I’m so nice to everybody else is because I had that upbringing."

HE GOT YOU INTO RACING, RIGHT?

"Yes. I think like most kids I would have liked dirt bikes or anything with an engine on it. But, I grew up watching him do some racing, and then we started doing that when I was eight. I like soccer and I like baseball, but I love racing. And there was really nothing that was going to take the place of that."

"When I was a kid, you had to be eight before you could even race a kart. So, I remember being five, or six, or seven and I didn’t get a go-kart until my eighth birthday. And then we just started racing all the time. And I wanted a kart. I wanted to go. But you had to be that old before you could race. It’s different now than what it was back then."

IF YOU PLAYED A STICK AND BALL SPORT, YOU COULD RUN TO THE PARK AND PLAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS

"We have a track in Mooresville now, so you could kind of do that where you would drive out and ride your kart for a few hours and then come back home, but most kids don’t have that luxury. It is about driving somewhere and you spend a weekend together with your family. But my upbringing was so much different than my wife’s. She talks about the vacations they on and she’s like man you missed out on all that. But I didn’t feel like I was because we were vacationing every weekend, and racing. I loved it. So some of what she thinks I sacrificed, I think were some of the greatest memories of my life."

DO YOU HAVE BROTHERS AND SISTERS?

"I have an older sister. She didn’t go a lot with us. She went a little bit, but she’s six years older than I am, so when I started racing she was 14 or 15. She wanted to hang out with her friends, and I guess live a little more normal life than just doing the circuits each weekend."

UNAUDIBLE

"I eat lunch with my dad twice or three times a week now. We’re still incredibly close and we still play with go-karts together. But we fish together as much now as we go ride go-karts together. So it’s changed a little bit, but I have an incredible friendship with my dad, still.

"My dad thinks he a professional fisherman (laughs), and he fishes every single day. And I love fishing and we still have the affiliation with Bass Pro. But when Bass Pro was like on my car, we got to go do some cool fishing trips together. So that was really fun. Man, the fishing is a great way to bond as well because when you get in a boat together, you talk. Like when you go play soccer, you take him to the game and they go play. When you fish together or hunt, your committed. You’re talking. You’re becoming friends. And it’s a great, great bonding experience as well."

IS THERE A RACE THAT SLIPPED THROUGH YOUR FINGERS THAT COST YOU MORE THAN ANY OTHER?

"Talladega with Kevin Harvick in 2010, I think. He beat me by four inches or something. So that’s one that I’d like to have back. He just timed it out better than I did (laughs)."

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