Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet SS, talks about his win in the Sprint All-Star Race, his thoughts on the Coca-Cola 600 and his position in the Chase.
TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN IN THE ALL-STAR EVENT AND NOW GETTING READY FOR THE 600 THIS WEEKEND... “The week has been really busy. I got to spend Sunday with my family. Then Monday was kind of all-day at the race shop with a team lunch and doing a lot of media obligations. Then we left at 4:30 in the morning to go to Kentucky for a Goodyear tire test all day Tuesday and all day Wednesday. We got back somewhat early yesterday; we land and I’m driving home and (Matt) Kenseth called and said they we’re having a family get together at his house so I was over there until about eight o’clock last night. So it’s been really busy for me.”
WHAT’S THE WACKIEST PHONE CALL, RESPONSE, TEXT OR ANYTHING AFTER WINNING SATURDAY NIGHT? AND CAN YOU ESTIMATE WHAT TIME YOU LOST THE BUZZ THAT NIGHT? “Did I have a buzz? That’s weird… I don’t remember that. I didn’t really get any wacky texts. My wife went to a birthday party at Casey Mears’ house Tuesday night, and she told me last night, ‘Jamie, I think people are really happy you won.’
Jeff (Gordon) and Jimmie (Johnson) and everyone over there came up and were kind of harassing here and asking what she was going to buy. But at the same time she was saying, ‘I really felt like they were really happy that you won.’ And I thought that was cool. Ultimately for me, I only care what that group of people thinks – the other drivers in the garage, the crew chiefs and the owners – I value their opinion more than anyone else’s. To see they were really happy for me was really cool.
“The buzz wore off… I don’t know what time. I went to bed about 4 and got up at like 8. I jumped up and was like, ‘I’ve got to get in the shower so I can get home and go see my family.’”
EVEN THOUGH WE’RE GOING FROM A 10-LAP SHOOTOUT TO THE LONGEST RACE, WILL IT COME DOWN TO THE FINAL RESTART AS TO WHO WINS THE 600? “Well yes. But I think is going to depend on if the final restart comes with 25 laps to go, it will be different. It seemed like the other night that in the 20-lap segments, when we got lap 15 or 18, you could tell the handling was going away on some of the guys’ cars. If we get a longer run… you could see the 4 or the 5 car getting passed last week. I think you’ll see some guys who can advance but if it comes down to a 10- or 15-lap shootout, the guy who gets out front will be hard to beat, for sure.”
DOES KURT (BUSCH) DOING THE DOUBLE HAVE ANY IMPACT ON NASCAR? WILL IT BRING MORE ATTENTION TO THE 600 BECAUSE SOMEONE IS DOING BOTH RACES? “I think so. My take on what Kurt is doing as a race fan is that it’s awesome. I can’t wait to get up Sunday morning, turn the Indy 500 on and watch Kurt’s day. We can all remember Tony (Stewart) and Robby Gordon did it and watching those guys to see how their races goes, them getting on the helicopter – Kurt is actually flying on the plane that I fly on every weekend back down here – and then to show up and race here. I’m excited about it, and I hope other fans – whether you’re and IndyCar fan or a NASCAR fan – are excited to watch his whole day as well. I think it’s really cool what he’s doing.”
YOU’VE HAD A COUPLE OF MONTHS TO GET USED TO THIS SYSTEM FOR QUALIFYING FOR THE CHASE. HOW HAS IT CHANGED THE CUP SERIES? HAS IT CHANGED STRATEGY? HAS IT CHANGED QUALIFYING AND TESTING? WHAT’S DIFFERENT NOW THIS YEAR? “I don’t see a lot different from our take. For me, the difference will be – and we haven’t had this race yet – is if we get a race… in order to take a chance, it has to be on fuel mileage or tires. We haven’t been in a position so far this year. Here we can go 50 laps on fuel. If we get a caution with 52 laps to go, that’s taking a chance and I think that’s where you will see guys take more risks in the pit strategy. We just haven’t been put in that position yet this year.”
WITH THE 600-MILER, NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE DRIVE 600 MILES IN A DAY MUCH LET ALONE DOING IT WITH 42 OTHER GUYS WHO ARE CHASING THE SAME THING. WHAT DO YOU DO MENTALLY TO PREPARE YOURSELF FOR SUCH A LONG DAY? “When I look at the 600, I think back to when I was running the Busch Series and the first time I ran a Cup race. You go from running 200 miles or 300 miles to a 500-mile race. I remember running my first Cup race and thinking to myself that it wasn’t as long as I was prepared for. You mentally prepare for it all week long leading up to it.
I’ve had this race circled, somewhat dreading it. I love the 400-mile races. I think that’s the perfect length for a NASCAR race. But I also think it’s cool that we have this marathon of an event. The only thing other than mentally preparing is getting enough food in your system. When I think back to this event, it’s always about trying to get enough food in your system that you’re not hungry or feel weak toward the end of the race.”
THIS MIGHT SOUND RIDICULOUS, BUT WAS THERE EVER A MOMENT SINCE WINNING AND KNOWING IT WAS THE ALL-STAR RACE AND DOESN’T HELP YOUR CHASE POSITION AT ALL? “Looking back at the way the Chase format has been structured, I assume next year the winner of the All-Star race will be included into the Chase based on my history. It seems like every year, I’m a year behind on what actually the next year is going to be. But I’m not concerned with that. I was so excited to win the All-Star Race. When I got home and I was looking at the trophy and thinking of all the races I’ve won, it was so cool to be put in that category. As much as I would have liked to win a points race and be guaranteed to get into the Chase, that was huge last weekend for me, for Keith (Rodden, crew chief) and our entire team. So honestly I don’t think about that.”
CAN YOU LOOK BACK TO 2002 WHEN YOU WON HERE FILLING IN FOR STERLING MARLIN AND HOW THAT WAS A TURNING POINT FOR YOUR CAREER AND HOW THAT WORKED OUT FOR YOU? “I honestly can’t look back to 2002. Things have changed so much in the sport and in my life since then. I remember those days mainly from pictures and some video; typically for the October race they will play that highlight and if I happen to be watching TV I’ll see that and it will spark a memory. But honestly, I don’t remember much about 2002.”
BUT IT WAS A HUGE TURNING POINT FOR YOU, RIGHT? “It was huge. I hadn’t won a Truck race or a Busch race at that point, and I won in Sterling’s Cup car filling in for him. So yeah absolutely that was huge for me.”
IF YOU CAN’T REMEMBER 2002, THEN 1994 MIGHT BE A PROBLEM. I’M WONDERING WHAT YOU REMEMBER ABOUT JEFF GORDON’S FIRST CAREER VICTORY AS A FAN BACK THEN. “I don’t remember that. I remember seeing all the video footage – I think Jeff won his first race and Kenseth as well (in 2000) so it’s a really big event for rookies. That’s what I was telling Kyle (Larson), ‘That this could be a big weekend for you.’ This is a weekend where rookies win races. So I think that’s really cool for Kyle. I graduated high school in 1994, so I don’t remember a lot about that.”
TALKING ABOUT THE CHASE AND AS WE COME TO THE HALFWAY POINT, IS THERE ANY ANXIOUSNESS OVER NOT HAVING A POINTS WIN YET? “There is still a lot of racing left to go. We’ve had really good cars all year and certainly are not sitting very good in the points. But if you’re in the position that our team is in, it’s about getting a win and getting locked in. Then the points reset themselves. Coming in here after winning the All-Star Race, I feel probably better than I have all year long because you’re coming back to a track that you feel you have a good setup at and it’s a good track for me. The becoming anxious will come with four to five races to go – not necessarily at this point. It’s a long way to Richmond. There is going to be a lot to happen.”
WHAT IS THE OLDEST THING YOU DO REMEMBER? “It’s weird. I remember my first go-kart race. I remember that day as clear as can be – everything about it. (The previous question) just put me on the spot. I just can’t remember it right now!”
DO YOU PAY ATTENTION AND NOTICE IF ANOTHER TEAM IS RUNNING GOOD OR STRUGGLING, OR DO YOU FOCUS ON YOUR TEAM? AND IF YOU DO NOTICE SOME OF THOSE THINGS, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE FIRST 10 OR 12 RACES OF THE SEASON? “I think everyone has paid attention to the 4 car this year. From the time we came here and tested in December and January for spoiler testing and pan testing, the 4 car has been the fastest off the truck. They’ve been really for the most part the best car all year long. I think everyone in the garage is paying attention to Kevin and Rodney (Childers). You’re looking at pictures and looking at their car. Everyone is eyeballing that team and trying figure out where the speed is. But that goes week to week as well. If someone runs well, everyone is on that bandwagon to find out what that team is doing this week for the next. But that’s no different than any other.”
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO GIVE KEITH RODDEN HIS FIRST WIN AS A CUP CREW CHIEF? “It was really cool to get Keith his first win. I remember my days at Roush and Jack at the Christmas party would get a trophy made for the crew chief for their first win and give it to them at the Christmas party. So I’ve been thinking in my head and talking to my wife about what I could do for Keith – something he would cherish and would like. I haven’t come up with that yet but I’m trying to figure it out. It’s special because Keith has won a lot of races and been part of some really good teams. It’s really gratifying for him to do it at the top level and for me to be part of that is really special.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT KYLE (LARSON) EARLIER. HOW HAVE YOU SEEN HIS PROGRESSION TO THIS POINT IN THE SEASON? WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE HE IS READY TO WIN AT THIS LEVEL? “Kyle has done a great job this year of staying out of trouble. I think one of the hardest parts for rookies is how you race people and how they race you. He’s done a good job of gaining the respect of a lot of the guys who have been around. It looked like he and Greg (Biffle) had a moment; I saw a highlight of he and Biffle at Kansas kind of going at it.
That’s part of being a rookie. But he’s done a really good job with most of the guys and I think he’s gained their respect. He’s done a great job there and he’s had really good cars all year long. He’s done a good job if the car gets away from him in the middle part of the race, they as a team have done a really good job of getting the car back and if they don’t get a great finish out of it, they get a good finish out of it. I think me winning last week will help him confidence-wise, knowing that our cars are capable of winning. When you know that another guy has won in the car and you feel like you’re capable of winning, I feel like that’s good for our whole organization and I know that’s going to be good for him.”