Despite having only one top 10 in his 11 starts at Sonoma Raceway, Jamie McMurray is looking forward to turning left and right this weekend in Wine Country as he feels that it’s one of the most comfortable tracks for him on the circuit.
“I came here and tested in 2003 and it’s just been a great place for me,” McMurray commented. “I’ve qualified exceptionally well here. I think I finished second here once.”
For McMurray, it’s late race fortunes that have taken him out of play and resulted in poor finishes, including a 25th-place finish last year after starting pole due to a flat tire late in the race.
“It’s just a fun race track,” McMurray continued. “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.”
McMurray went on to say that he wishes there was more road courses on the schedule as they “always turns out interesting with fuel mileage, and then the restarts are just crazy.”
In the same respect, McMurray is hoping that things don’t turn out too crazy so he can post a solid finish to move up in points as he currently sits 20th after 15 races thus far this year. For that reason, McMurray hopes that past ‘dive bombs’ that have happened heading into turns don’t happen this year, so he doesn’t fall victim to more bad luck.
The driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet doesn’t see it happening as he feels that guys are getting smarter about how to run road courses. He also added that with mostly being regulars out there, they know the big picture and aren’t over aggressive.
Though before the race, the first big obstacle is qualifying and everybody is predicting things to be interesting on Saturday with the new format that is in place for qualifying this year. With qualifying split into two rounds like intermediate tracks this year rather than group qualifying, it has most of the garage talking about how it may go.
“This is one of those tracks where somebody could get in your way and really kill your lap,” McMurray comented. “And for the first run, the sticker tires are going to be 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.”
McMurray added that his team has debated throughout the week whether they want to go out right near the beginning of the session, or wait till after some drivers have run and cleaned the track some.
“I think the ideal situation would be to go right out on the track,” McMurray predicted of his team’s strategy for tomorrow. “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.”
McMurray also put questions surrounding what could happen simply based on the draw as depending where you are on pit road and whether it gets blocked up will effect your run.
Looking at options of multiple runs and laps, McMurray predicts that the driver who wins the pole will do it on their first lap out in hte segment and that’ll be his quickest lap due to how much the tires fall off.