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Jun 20, 2014 - 06:42 PM
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2014 Sonoma Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Jamie McMurray
Posted by: ASkyler on Jun 20, 2014 - 06:36 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Sonoma Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Jamie McMurray


JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the new qualifying format, opportunities for making the Chase, how he likes road course racing, and more. F

TALK ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS OF THE WEEKEND HERE AT SONOMA RACEWAY

"I always look forward to coming out here. First off, it’s a really pretty environment to be at and it’s also maybe one of the more comfortable tracks for me on the circuit. I came here and tested in 2003 and it’s just been a great place for me. I’ve qualified exceptionally well here. I think I finished second here once. But it seems like every year something has happened to us in the race. We had a flat tire last year with 40 laps to go or something and lost a bunch of track position and could never regain it. But it’s just a fun race track. I really enjoy road course racing. It’s a little different than Watkins Glen because the speed is so much slower and it’s so hard to get drive off the corners. But, it’s a fun track and a fun environment and I always look forward to it."

IN RECENT YEARS, WE’VE SEEN A LOT MORE AGGRESSION HERE, ESPECIALLY IN THE LATE RACE RE-STARTS. WHY IS THAT? DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE THE SAME ON SUNDAY?

"To me, when I look back, when we used to have a lot of the road course ringers come in, I wouldn’t say it was aggressive as much as just poor decision-making. Turn 4 and Turn 7 on a re-start here are horrible. And when you have a guy that’s in 12th or 15th and just makes a complete dive-bomb; at least when I would watch a replay there’s like no way their going to make the corner. They would wipeout somebody that was having a good day. Those are really frustrating. But now, I feel like it’s really aggressive, but its guys making moves that seem realistic. And sometimes it doesn’t always work out. But I feel like everyone has gotten smarter about road course racing and making sure they make it to the end. Maybe it’s because there are more regulars now. We just don’t have as many of those guys coming in that don’t race with us every week. Yeah, to me, the road course races are some of the best we have all year long. I wish that we had more of these on the schedule. It just always turns out interesting with fuel mileage, and then the restarts are just crazy."

HEADING TO DAYTONA HERE AND KNOWING YOUR SUCCESS ON RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS, WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM DOING TO PREPARE FOR THAT RACE?

"Well, there’s a lot of effort that’s put into the Daytona 500 because we do the testing and then we’re in Daytona for two weeks preparing for that race. But I would say honestly, from my side, I don’t really think about speedway races until we get there that week. There’s really not a lot you can to the car once you get to the track, so the team prepares the car. I think our speedway car is already done, sitting there, maybe waiting on an engine or getting an engine put in it. To me, when I look at Daytona and the races, it kind of is what it is and you know what to expect. Qualifying was so much different at Talladega than what we had had before. And we didn’t even make it to the second round, which was deflating. With this new qualifying process, if you don’t advance. At Daytona and Talladega now, it’s kind of about getting in that right pack to run that qualifying lap. So, to me, I’m more thinking about qualifying and not really thinking about the race right now. I’m just trying to get a good qualifying effort in and make sure we get with the right group there."

 

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DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR SUPERSTITIONS OR THINGS THAT YOU DO ROUTINELY BEFORE A RACE?

"Well, I’ve been superstitious sometimes. I maybe still am a little bit. But I’ve also had really good days when a $50 bill appeared or the green sharpie. And then I’ve had really bad days when I think I did everything correctly. So, I’m maybe not as superstitious as I used to be. But I am really structured in everything that happens before the races. But I think that’s just kind of my life in general. I tend to do the same thing every day. I wake up around the same time and have the same routine, whether it’s working out or going to the shop. I don’t know. I’m just not big into changing things. So, I’m maybe a little superstitious in just kind of wanting to do the same thing each week."

WITH THE NEW RULES ABOUT A WIN AND GETTING INTO THE CHASE, HAVE YOU ENVISIONED WHAT A LATE-RACE RE-START WOULD BE LIKE HERE?

"Yeah, first-off, you hope you’re in that position that you can be one of those guys (to contend for a win), but you never know here if you’re going to have a late-race restart. So, I really haven’t put much thought into that. And when we get to the races, you don’t get to decide if you have a good short-run car or a good long-run car. So, that changes your mentality on the restarts because sometimes you have a car that’s great on restarts and you’re like oh, I hope we have that because maybe I can advance my position. And then there are other instances when your car is not good on restarts and so you’re dreading that to come out. Until you get out and you kind of get into the race, it’s hard to worry about those things."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON QUALIFYING HERE? WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING?

"Well, I think that it the talk in the garage right now. There are some unknowns. I guess we have 30 minutes and then a break and then 10 minutes maybe. Initially they talked about that this would be three segments but now it’s only two. And this is one of those tracks where somebody could get in your way and really kill your lap. And for the first run, the sticker tires are going to worth a lot versus going out on the scuffs. I don’t think you’ll see anybody go out on scuffs and knock anyone out because the tires are so important here. But really, we’ve talked about it for a week now. Do you want to go right out? Or, do you want to wait and let some of the guys run and then the track be cleaner? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really has the answer right now. I think the ideal situation would be to go right out on the track. That being said, it’s a big race track. I think they blow it off; I don’t know if they do. But you don’t know if there’s a corner that’s going to be covered in dust from wind or from a car that has run off late in practice. So, it will be interesting tomorrow to see how that works out and what guys’ strategies are.

"Also, where you draw dictates a lot of when you go out. If you draw number 1; you know we spent the last 30 years in NASCAR wanting the biggest number we could get when they draw because you wanted to go out late because it would be cooler. Well, now everyone fights to get the first pull, so that you have the option to go right out or to wait. So pit road gets blocked up when everybody backs out and pulls down there. If you draw in the 20’s, you know that you’re not going to make the first wave out on the race track. So, some of that is depending on what your draw is."

REGARDING QUALIFYING, HOW DOES THE NEW FORMAT AFFECT HOW AGGRESSIVELY YOU TAKE EACH LAP? YOU WON THE POLE HERE LAST YEAR. AND THEN YOU HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT TIRE WEAR.

"I think you’ll see most guys run one lap and that’s going to be your fast lap. When we looked back to last year, it was about a second a lap slower your second time on the track. So, it’s all about getting that perfect lap. And that’s what makes the road course pulls so special is that it’s hard to make a perfect lap here and have the best lap. Last year I think I barely beat Marcus (Ambrose) for the pole. And I think about the places where I could have been better and I’m sure he thinks about where he messed up at, right? But road course racing, the qualifying is tough. It’s a little different now because last year they started the European qualifying where you got to have multiple laps. But, your best situation is to put the most tape on the car for just one lap and the air pressure, so that for only one lap you can put it all on the line. Even though you have the option to run more, I think the pole guy will do it, is to put the most tape on in his first time by."

HOW MUCH OF AN OPPORTUNITY DOES THIS RACE GIVE YOU THIS WEEKEND FOR MAKING THE CHASE? THE DRIVERS THAT HAVE BEEN WINNING A LOT THIS YEAR NORMALLY AREN’T GOOD HERE. HOW MUCH OF AN OPEN DOOR IS THIS FOR YOU?

"Honestly, I thought we had a car capable of winning last week at Michigan and then I did a terrible job on a restart and we struggled a little bit to get fuel in the car. But honestly, I look at each week as a chance to win. I don’t use Sonoma as like the opportunity for other guys. There is so much that can happen here with fuel mileage and the way the cautions fall and the way you pit. The whole race can change in a matter of four or five laps if the caution falls at the right or wrong time for guys. So, I don’t look at this as a better opportunity. I really feel like each race between now and Richmond, we’ll have the chance to win if we make all the right decisions. So yeah, I think this weekend is as good as any."

WHY DO YOU THINK WE’VE HAD NINE DIFFERENT WINNERS IN THE PAST NINE RACES HERE?

"I don’t know. I remember the year that Kasey Kahne won here; it was kind of a surprise to everybody. But I think that all of us have gotten so much better at road course racing over the years that if you put someone in the right position in the end, they’re capable of winning. And MWR has been really good here. I think they’ve won the last two races here. I love Clint Bowyer to death, but I would never have put him in winning a road course category, right? But when you look back, he’s done really well at road course racing. So, yeah, it’s kind of circumstantial. You’ve got to have a really good car. We are so limited. We go and test at all these road courses for Sonoma or for Watkins Glen, and it seems like the set-ups you develop don’t work when you get here. So, we’re so limited on time, like we only have three and a half hours of practice today. That’s not a lot. That’s not a lot of tires. So, you don’t really get to try a lot of stuff. And I think when the teams get here and they unload and they’re close, that’s a huge advantage. And if those guys can call the right race, then they have a chance to win. But it is interesting. It seems like there’s a surprise winner here a lot."

ON QUALIFYING, THIS YEAR WE’VE SEEN A FEW TEAMS HAVE ISSUES (LIKE) NOT GETTING OUT AND GETTING THEIR LAP STARTED BEFORE A SESSION ENDED. WE’VE SEEN GUYS HAVE FLAT TIRES AND ARE UNABLE TO CHANGE THEM TO ADVANCE TO THE NEXT ROUND. WE SAW YOUR TEAMMATE WITH A DEAD BATTERY, UNABLE TO ADVANCE. HOW MUCH OF A CONCERN IS THAT FOR YOU WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO GO EARLY OR LATE?

"Qualifying has turned into an incredible 50 minutes, I think, for all of us. It’s like another race, I feel like. I feel like every weekend you get in the car and you know you’re probably going to be sitting there for the next hour. And the emotions that happen over the first 30 minutes, especially if you’re right on the bubble, or if you’re only in by a three or four positions. You sit there for the next 15 or 20 minutes while your call cools down. And then you’re waiting for the next guy that hadn’t advanced in, to go. You want to see if the track is faster. At Michigan last week, people could go quicker on their second run. So, qualifying has turned into what was exciting for 30 seconds at a place like Atlanta or Texas, to an hour of an emotional roller coaster for all of us (as to) whether you’re going to advance or not.

"I look back at Fontana and (Greg) Biffle bumped me out with one second to go. And I was 25th and he ended up being 24th. So, I was just devastated. I left the track mad. I didn’t even pay attention to the rest of qualifying. He bumped me out with one second to go and then to go for the next round, his tires were hot and he wasn’t any good, right? And when the race started on Sunday, he started one row in front of me; he was like 24th. And I’m like why did I get mad over that? I would have been in the same position if I had been the guy that made it in. So, it’s interesting how we all want to win. We all want to be on the pole. And you have like really three chances now and it’s really interesting how the guy that’s fastest in the first round is not guaranteed to be on the pole. He might not even make it to the third round at some of the tracks. So, it’s a lot of fun. I like qualifying. I think it’s great."

HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU IN RACE STRATEGY - WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE A TWO-STOP STRATEGY WITH OLD TIRES OR WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE THREE STOPS WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF FRESH TIRES? ALSO CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW PHYSICALLY CHALLENGING THIS TRACK IS?

"On the strategy, that’s really left up to the crew chief. You have to see the track position you have. I think every driver would prefer to have the best tires on the track. It’s a helpless feeling when you’re the last one to pit and everyone behind you has tires. But it depends on how the car is, how the cautions fall. So I leave all that up to the crew chief and let him know what the car is doing.

"I think Watkins Glen is way worse than Sonoma. I’ve looked at the weather and it’s not going be hot here, which is great. This is one of the places we come to where you’re doing a little more work than we did on the ovals. The cars are hotter; you’re not going as quick so there’s not as much air moving around. So that is a place that can be a little hot and tiring. But it will be only like 75 degrees on Sunday so it should be really good."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE GROWTH YOU’VE SEEN FROM YOUR TEAMMATE KYLE (LARSON) JUST FROM THE START OF THE SEASON TO NOW. HE’S FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND HAS NEVER RACED HERE. WHAT KIND OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM FOR THIS RACE?

"He’s done an awesome job. Kyle has done a great job all year long. He’s a great kid. I really enjoy having him as a teammate. We were in the hauler a few minutes ago going over the track and was telling him the little things I think about when I come here and what I look for - shifting points and just things to look for on the track. He’s done a great job. This will be his biggest challenge all year long - to come here and not really practice in a limited amount of time we have on the track. He’ll figure it out. Kyle’s best quality is that he is able to put it all together at the end of the race. Even if things don’t go well at the end, he seems to be able to find a way to finish well. That’s why he is where is in the points because they’ve been able to pull all that together. So yeah… great teammate and great kid. He’s done an awesome job."

THEY GAVE HIM THE KEY TO THE CITY IN HIS HOMETOWN. DID THEY EVER GIVE YOU THE KEY TO JOPLIN?

"I don’t believe so! I knew that Kyle was from California. But I have to be honest… is it Elk Grove where he’s from? I couldn’t point on a map where Elk Grove is or how big it is!"

A LOT OF ROAD COURSES BRING OUT THE ROAD RAGE IN SOME DRIVERS. ON THE HIGHWAY, WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST PET PEEVE?

"My pet peeve on the highway is people who don’t want to go the speed limit in the faster lane. When I drive down the interstate - even if I’m speeding slightly - and I see someone coming faster than me behind, I’ll get out of the way. I also hate people that try to become the police in their car when maybe you’re passing them on the shoulder leaving the track… the guy who pulls over to cut you off. If a guy wants to go on the shoulder, let him go on the shoulder. I don’t really have an issue with that."


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