THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today’s NASCAR teleconference with Jamie McMurray driver of the No. #1 Bass Pro Shops/Arctic Cat Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. McMurray, a two-time race winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is celebrating the 10th anniversary season of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series which came at Charlotte on October 13, 2002. This year also mark’s the one-year anniversary that the Joplin tornado wreaked havoc on his hometown of Joplin, Missouri.
Going into the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte at a track you’ve specifically ran very well, talk about how you prepare as a driver and as a team for the longest race of the season.
JAMIE McMURRAY: It seems like you mentally prepare for that, and in the race, even if your car is good, things go by fairly quick and if your car is not, it seems like it takes all day.
But after running there in the All-Star Race each year, it gives you a good baseline of changes that you want to make and we’ve gone back and changed a few things on our car to make it better, and it’s a big test, the 600. Most people look forward, if you run decent at the All-Star event, then you look forward to going back because you have a really good baseline to start with.
THE MODERATOR: We all know that the continued relief efforts in Joplin have been close to your heart and you’ve been actively involved in the past year. Can you talk about some of the support you and your team of sponsors have provided to your hometown?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I haven’t been back since last year when we did all of the fund-raising with Bass Pro Shops, and they had the big fund-raiser at the store in Springfield. But my mom has been back a few times, and been able to kind of update me on the rebuilding process, and she said that it’s still not anything like what it was, but that they are rebuilding and that it’s moving along, but it’s going to take a long time to get it back to where it was.
Q. I was wondering if the All-Star performance or Showdown performance gave you any feeling that the Ganassi programs are making process?
JAMIE McMURRAY: We have made probably some of the biggest changes after that race to our cars. The 42 car had a little different chassis than what I had, and I don’t want to get into too much detail with you, but we fought some issues with my car even though it ran pretty good and the 42 didn’t.
We went back and made all of those changes that we had to our car so I’m pretty anxious to get out and see if we still fight the same issues. It’s been such a good track for me and it’s one of their tracks that I really look forward to. Our cars are definitely better than where they were last year but we still have a ways to go.
I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow and see if the changes we have made have made an improvement. I feel like if it helps at Charlotte, it’s going to help at Dover and some of the other races that we have coming up. Yeah, I’m pretty anxious to get out there.
Q. Is it difficult to stay kind of patient, with y’all making so many changes in the off-season, to obviously you want those changes to provide results but know that sometimes it can take time.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I don’t think that – – I mean, there are certainly different per all ties that react different, differently.
I don’t think it does any good to voice your opinion publically of how you think things are going. And so, you know, I know that there’s a tremendous amount of work going on at our shop and that Chip is making a major financial contribution to getting everything where it needs to go.
I mean, the fact is that if it was easy, everybody would run well, and it wouldn’t be the challenge that it is, but it’s a lot of work. When you get to have years like we did in 2010, it makes it even harder to not run well because you have the capability of doing it.
But I just had an off-season. My expectations weren’t that we were going to come out and be a dominant car because I knew it was going to take time and it is taking time and they are making changes. I think the best part is that we feel like where we are finding issues, where last year, we didn’t. We were changing stuff last year, but it was kind of shooting from the hip and not really knowing why we were doing things. I think it’s more scientific this year and it’s based on engineering and when we make a change, it’s better, it’s not just a guess. It’s not hard to be patient when you feel like there’s progress to be made.
Q. NASCAR made the tweak last week where they raised the side skirts a bit. Did that make a difference and would you like to see them do more with something?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I didn’t think it made a difference. I mean in the race that I was in, the 22 car was significantly faster than I was. And he got, you know, same thing, he got within ten car lengths of me and it was super hard to make the pass.
But I mean, you know, there’s no criticism there of NASCAR or anybody, because every former racer fights that; when your car is dependent on air and downforce and you lose that, it’s harder to pass. It is what it is, and when you’re running the speeds we are running, you want to be the car up front. But I didn’t think that – I didn’t think the side skirts made any difference.
Q. Talking about Charlotte, does that help when you guys are working to make big strides that now you come to a track where you really know what you want and the feel that you want?
JAMIE McMURRAY: For sure, because you do go to some tracks that you don’t run well at you and don’t know what you’re looking for or if you’re driving in the track just right.
But Charlotte has always been really good for me, and I seem to be much more critical of the cars when we get there, because you kind of know what you want it to do.
So, yeah, I mean, absolutely. It’s great that we get to have two weeks here, also, because we got to have the All-Star Race and then kind of analyze our issues and then go back and work on them this week and then comeback for the 600.
So it’s a great place to feel comfortable at because we get to run there so much.
Q. Does it seem like it’s been ten years since your first win at Charlotte?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No. Honestly, I always watch all of the races back before we go. Like I’ll watch the 600 back from last year just to see if there’s anything that you can pick up on, whether it’s pit road speeding penalties or just what the track did from day to night.
I stumbled across, actually, on YouTube, the 2002 win, and I watched a little bit of it just out of curiosity, and when you look back and they interviewed Jimmie and Ryan Newman and some of the guys and then you see the names of Rusty was still in the field and Bill Elliott, I looked back at that and I actually paused it and took it to Kristy and I was like, you’ve got to look at this and look how young everybody looked.
Makes me feel very old today. It’s been a long time. I feel really lucky that I’ve got to do this this long, but it’s been a long time for sure.
Q. What’s the difference between the champion Jamie McMurray in 2002 and the Jamie McMurray of 2012? What’s the main difference in you as a driver?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Certainly seem much more educated but you still make mistakes, make not the same mistakes but there are still things that you can do better.
When I looked back at that, though, I couldn’t believe just first off that they were doing the pit road speed by a stopwatch and timing lines. There was no electronic timing. Watching the guys do green flag pit stops, it’s just so much more advanced now and so much faster. As a driver, I don’t know, gosh, it doesn’t seem that long ago until I look back at the pictures and I see how young everybody looked.
Q. I would like to ask you a question about your spotter, Lorin Ranier, and can you speak to how that relationship works and how it’s evolved through the years?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Lorin ended up being my spotter when I first went to Ganassi in 2003 and he spotted for me for three years, and then I went to Roush and he was under contract at Ganassi still and he actually worked there selling parts and stuff.
And then he came back and spotted for me in my last year at Roush, and he spotted over there for a while. I just have always enjoyed Lorin. I feel like he’s very passionate about racing, and it’s not just a job; I feel like he’s racing with you, and that’s really important, especially doing plate races.
You feel like the guy understands you and kind of knows what you’re thinking, and then, you know, also, I think Lorin’s passion for the sport goes a long ways with his commitments. I have always enjoyed working with Lorin and been together a long time.
Q. Is there anything that you like for him to tell you, either before a race or during a race?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No. I’m actually really quiet on the radio. I don’t really – I always tell Lorin or anyone else that if you want to talk, we can talk afterwards. When you’re in the car, you just really just want the essentials.
I don’t really want to have a conversation with you out there or hear a bunch of useless information. It’s hard for me to say because I don’t know what other guys ask for, but we have been together so long that we don’t really even talk about it before the races.
He’ll tell me, you know, at certain tracks there’s blind spots, like if I don’t have a very good perception or view of what’s happening there, but other than that, it’s really just kind of routine.
Q. Some of the things we have heard recently like Tony Stewart after Talladega, if we don’t have enough crashes, we need to do whatever we need to do to make it as zany for the fans as what we are asking for, and this past weekend Kurt Busch talked about WWE racing after Darlington and that’s what the fans want and it needs to be that entertaining. And I’m wondering if there is not now with these kind of expressions some kind of backlash after ‘Boys Have At It’, which was so exciting for race fans and to see all of this conflict on the track, how do you absorb that, when you hear statements like that, do you feel like what drivers are looking for out of NASCAR racing is at odds with what fans are hoping for? What’s your take?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I think sometimes the media makes more of what drivers say than what there really is. My opinion is, when NASCAR said ‘Boys Have At It’, that didn’t change any driver’s way of going about things. It’s not like we all got together and said, let’s get rowdy. It’s coincidental that it happened then.
As far as Kurt, I didn’t really see exactly what Kurt said. I don’t know, I think that there’s – I believe that there’s some fans out there that like to watch racing, and then there’s other fans that maybe like to watch the drama, maybe some that like a little of both.
I mean, to me, if you like racing, then you should have loved Bristol. Why they changed the track, I don’t know. To me that was one of the raciest tracks that we went to. There weren’t crashes anymore. But as far as racing, if you were a race fan, that was good racing. I don’t know. I think it was a little mix of both.
The cars, we just don’t seem to crash as much as we used to, and I don’t think they are ever going to get that back. It doesn’t really matter what the rules are or what NASCAR does to change the cars. I mean, the crashing just comes from, I think people getting smarter and racing smarter. I don’t think it really has anything to do with them giving us more of a tolerance with our attitude.
Q. With two wins at Charlotte, how much do you attribute your success to track configuration or certain things about that particular track that makes it better for you and how much do you think it’s being there two weeks in a row and the home atmosphere?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, the first time I had won at Charlotte, I had just moved here like a month or something before winning the race. It wasn’t really home to me at the time.
But I don’t know, I think that every driver has a track that they really feel good about, but most importantly, I’ve had good cars there. It’s been one of those places that you show up and it seems like pit stops go your way, and your car and your engine and everything about it just is performing well at that time of year when we get there, and maybe it’s a track that other guys don’t like.
So I don’t – I don’t know. I think the biggest thing is that I’ve had really good equipment at that track. Man, it’s so close now, that you can have the smallest advantage over a guy, it’s the difference between winning and losing.
Q. I wanted to ask about the All-Star, I know fans were not happy about segment winners were put back into a final segment. What’s your take on how the All-Star Race played out and should changes be made to it?
JAMIE McMURRAY: This has been a topic of discussion throughout all race shops throughout the week. Personally I wasn’t a big fan much the format, of the All-Star Race. I wish that they would do it more like a normal weekend and maybe let 43 guys start the first segment and then start eliminating people at every segment; whether you eliminate 20 people in the first segment or get it down to the ends where you only have five guys left or ten guys left that are racing it out.
So then you have ten laps to go if you’re not in the front four position, you have no chance of winning anyway. But I think it would be cool that if you had to make everybody race really hard every single segment and then you start eliminating people, I think that would be really interesting to see how that plays out.
Q. If you work out the segments to happen – would you like the original three segments like they used to be?
JAMIE McMURRAY: To be honest with you, I haven’t watched a lot of those. I did watch it this year and it’s kind of fresh in my mind so I can comment on this year’s. I don’t remember what they had before.
I think that you need to make it so that everyone has to race hard every single segment. I mean, everybody knew what they were going to do. You know, if you won the first segment, everyone in the garage knew that they were going to ride around in the back so you can’t get crashed. You can’t get mad at the guys for doing that and you’re racing the guys to race in the final segment, and there’s no point in staying up there and taking a chance at getting in a wreck if you didn’t have to.
Q. I am with and from southwest Missouri. How much is helping the people of Joplin helped you in your racing career, or maybe not people from Joplin but people from other communities.
JAMIE McMURRAY: How much has helping them helped my racing career?
Q. How much has helping the people of Joplin or other charities helped your racing career.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don’t know that helping anyone has helped my career at all, but, I don’t know, I think that you that you get in a position where you can give back or you can use TV cameras and all of the exposure that we have in NASCAR for the better. I think that that’s the most important time to use those tools.
When I came back to Joplin, I came back more than anything because I wanted to see it. And then, you know, there was so many media people that wanted to come with me and that it brought a lot of exposure and Bass Pro Shops wanted to get involved and wanted to help raise money to give back.
I think it’s maybe the other way; maybe getting to be at a type of racing at the level that I’m at, you have access to so much media to get exposure and help raise money, that it maybe works the other way.
Q. How surprised were you by the number of fans and media and drivers that stepped in to help?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, the racing community is pretty small. Whether it’s with media, or the drivers, it seems like everybody wants to help others out. The whole thing with Joplin was that that wasn’t just – that was mainstream media. It was just devastating that it happened just a few weeks after the Tuscaloosa tornado.
Yeah, I think that’s just part of NASCAR and everyone seems to have a big heart and wanting to give back. Yeah, I think that’s a no-brainer for those guys to want to help with that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, we appreciate you taking the time to join us today. Best of luck this weekend.