Ford drivers Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, and David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion, both have their sights set on making this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time. The two drivers...
Ford drivers Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, and David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion, both have their sights set on making this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time. The two drivers spoke about their expectations for 2009 at last week's Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour.
JAMIE MCMURRAY -- No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion
WITH THE LACK OF TESTING THIS OFF SEASON, DO YOU THINK THAT THE GUYS WHO WERE STRONG LAST YEAR WILL BE THE SAME ONES WHO ARE STRONG OUT OF THE GATE THIS SEASON? "I think even when you get to include testing that the guys who ended the season strong automatically start the next season strong. If you look at history you don't ever see someone who struggled at the end of a season have two months off, do some testing, and then come back strong. It usually works that the guys who ended the season strong typically are the ones who come out of the box strong. I don't feel that there's anything that we can do to substitute actually being on the track. I mean teams are going and testing at tracks like Rockingham and as much as we want to say that track is similar to Martinsville, nothing is ever Martinsville except for Martinsville itself. I think that teams can learn a lot from these other tracks to shake their cars down, but I don't think that teams can etch in stone that if something works at one of these smaller tracks it will work at a track we compete at."
I HEARD YOU WERE AT THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION "I was in fact. It was very cold and I think the memory that will always be etched in my mind about the event was that we were at the Canadian Embassy as guests of Crown Royal and you could see where Obama was speaking, but we were far enough away where you couldn't hear him, so everyone in the embassy ended up watching much of the event around a few TVs and when he was sworn in it was very touching to see the emotion of a lot of people in the room who broke out crying because they were witnessing history. It's a day that I will never forget and there's always one woman that was there who I will always keep in my memory of that day and her reaction to all the events going on around her. I definitely feel that we were lucky enough to have had one of the best seats at the event because a lot of the TV networks were set up right around the Embassy's property. The Embassy is actually on Pennsylvania Avenue so during the parade we also had great views of the events. The crowd was unbelievable and you just can't imagine what that many people look like in one place. It's so hard to explain to someone how amazing the experience was."
DOES THE FACT THAT AT THE END OF THIS SEASON, ONE TEAM FROM ROUSH FENWAY WILL HAVE TO BE CUT WEIGH ON YOUR MIND AT ALL "Well, honestly we know that NASCAR has asked Jack to cut down to four cars for the 2010 season, but in regards to who it will be is only speculation now. So until they announce something, I haven't really thought about it, and it's not something that bothers me as we look ahead to this season."
WHAT IS IT LIKE WITH DONNIE COMING BACK? "It's awesome and really exciting. I can honestly tell you that I've had the best winter ever in regards to the least amount of stress and some of that comes from Donnie coming over and me feeling very comfortable and confident in him and then also our team ran as well as any other team at the end of the season, so the teams that end strong are certainly going to start off this season running well. We went to the Phoenix tire test a few weeks ago and I hopped in the car and put my helmet on and you do a radio check and I said 'Donnie, have you got me?' and he replied back '10-4' and I thought, 'Wow, it's like this never ended.' It's so weird how his voice and how the comfort level was still there and I'm more excited about this year than ever. Donnie is very sharp and he is the kind of guy who will ask you the question when he already knows the answer to see what he can get out of you. He's very up-to-date on the engineering side of our sport and I think that's his plan is to lead you thinking one thing, and he'll be doing the other. Donnie calls races really well and if you look at the drivers that Donnie has been a crew chief for, they've all run better when they're with him than with any other crew chief, and I think that says a lot for him."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE A BETTER DRIVER NOW THAN WHEN YOU STARTED IN THE CUP SERIES? "It's different now. The cars are all closer and the fields are so much closer now that it becomes difficult to pass and I don't think that has anything to do with the splitter or with the way the cars are, it's just that everyone is so much closer that it's more difficult to pass than ever before. The racing is a little different than when I won at Charlotte with the way we race and just the way the cars are, but I think that every year we learn more and more and you build upon all that knowledge each season."
IS 2009 YOUR BREAKOUT YEAR? "Well I feel more comfortable than ever and I certainly ran as well as I ever have in my career at the end of last season at a lot of different types of tracks. I feel that our team is also stronger this year and everyone that we lost staff-wise, we've replaced them with someone stronger than the people we had in place. I just feel that Donnie is one of the best crew chiefs in our sport and we had a lot of success at Ganassi with lesser equipment, so to have Donnie and then all the Ford equipment here at Roush Fenway Racing, I can't wait to see how this all comes together this year."
WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORDS "DAYTONA 500" WHAT FEW WORDS COME TO MIND? "It's all starting. I can't think of just one word to associate with that race. The Daytona 500 is a race that if you win that race, you're always known as a Daytona 500 Champion and that never leaves you and definitely puts you into a different group of drivers who have accomplished that feat."
ANY MEMORIABLE DAYTONA 500's? "Daytona 500 races have not been good to me. I won the July race, but the Daytona 500 has always been a tough one for me. It makes your season so much easier if you can start off with those first few races with some solid finishes, so I'm hoping that the statistics do not continue this year and that eventually I'd run well in it. Superspeedways have always been good to me so we'll see. My thought is this, when you go to superspeedways you have a 50/50 chance of crashing out of the race and looking back, I've unfortunately crashed out of the last two, so I think my odds need to be on the side of me finishing well there this year."
WHAT ARE THE DYNAMICS LIKE IN THE SHOP BETWEEN THE FIVE TEAMS AT ROUSH FENWAY AND THE FACT THAT EVERY WEEK YOU HAVE FIVE GUYS WHO CAN GO OUT AND WIN A RACE? "I think it's awesome that we have the opportunity every week to go out and win races and certainly I think that drives us even more to beat all the other four guys in your camp. We share all the information and at the end of the day, we all usually finish pretty close to each other. Every driver has their own quarks as to how they like their cars and the engineers have figured out how to adapt the basic set-ups we use to each driver. There's a lot of sharing of information as well as a lot of give-and-take on the race track too."
IS THERE ONE THING THAT YOUR TEAM WANTS TO IMPROVE ON FOR THE 2009 SEASON? "With Donnie coming over as my new crew chief, I already have a lot of confidence in him based on our previous partnership. You can't buy confidence, it just has to be there and I have all the confidence in the world in him as do all the guys at the shop. With the way we ended up 2008, this should be a very solid year for us."
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACING AT CHARLOTTE "I will never forget being able to win a Charlotte. It's the home track for everyone in the industry it seems so we all enjoy racing there since a majority of us all live there. Charlotte is a wonderful place to race and the track is wide which allows us to race on the top or the bottom. It's just a fun place and I'll never forget winning there in 2002. It's a great race track and the staff always does a great job promoting the races and I always have fun being a part of the festivities associated around racing there."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SHOOTOUT FOR THIS YEAR FOLLOWING THE LACK OF TESTING AS WELL AS THE FORMAT CHANGE? "I think the format is odd. I think it's also hard for people to accept change. When they changed the point system and instituted the Chase people weren't sure about it, but in my opinion, it's turned into one of the best things for our sport in years, so I hope the Shootout format works out the same. For me, I used to consider it an honor to be in the Shootout because it meant that you had won a pole the season before and it put you in a different class of drivers and when you weren't in the Shootout, you wanted to be in it. The way it is now it just seems as if almost every full-time team is going to be in the Shootout so I'm not sure it's going to have as much importance to me now. You get so much track time at Daytona anyways for Speedweeks and a lot of time you may not even utilize all that time fully so I'm not sure if there's going to be that big of a deal not being able to test before Daytona."
WITH THE ADDED DOWN TIME THIS YEAR DUE TO THE LACK OF TESTING, DO YOU FIND YOURSELF READY TO GET RACING EVEN MORE NOW? "Oh yes, without a doubt. I went and raced my go-karts about three times in the off-season and I was excited to go and do that. Once I had the chance to jump in the car at Phoenix for that tire test, I just can't wait to get back racing again. We start off with the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500, it's just really exciting and I'm ready to go."
-credit: ford racing