Phoenix II: McMurray - Ford Friday interview

Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Ford Fusion, will have a new crew chief in 2007. While the search continues for who that person will be, McMurray held a Q&A session before Friday's practice to talk about the impending change. JAMIE ...

Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Ford Fusion, will have a new crew chief in 2007. While the search continues for who that person will be, McMurray held a Q&A session before Friday's practice to talk about the impending change.

JAMIE MCMURRAY-26-Crown Royal Ford Fusion

HAVE YOU DECIDED ON A NEW CREW CHIEF FOR NEXT YEAR? "No, we're talking to a few people and certainly trying to find the guy that's going to be the right one for me and for everyone on this team. It's been a very frustrating year; everyone knows that. I really expected to be able to come over here and be successful immediately, and it just hasn't worked out. So, we're going to regroup and rethink everything and find the right guy for the team."

CAN YOU PINPOINT EXACTLY WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO MAKE IT FIT TOGETHER NEXT YEAR? "I wish. If we knew the answer to that, we would have tried to fix it halfway through or when we made the crew chief change. We're just going to regroup, and I don't think that there's just necessarily one thing that needs to be fixed, and I don't think it's anything big. There are just a lot of areas that need a little tweaking, and we're going to address all of that this winter."

WILL IT ENTAIL MORE THAN JUST A CREW CHIEF CHANGE? "I don't know yet exactly everything that is going to go down, so it would be hard for me to say. We have a huge group of people to pull from at Roush Racing, whether it's from the truck program, the Busch program or in the Cup program. I don't know exactly what's going to happen there. We haven't gone that deep yet into the situation because once you get the crew chief fixed, a lot of times crew chiefs will bring people that they enjoy working with or they have a lot of confidence in. The crew chief will be the first thing we need to find, and then once we get a crew chief, we'll sit down with him and figure out what he wants to do."

ARE YOU READY FOR THE SEASON TO END? "Yes, I'm ready for the year to be over. It's fun to come to Phoenix because it's so pretty out here. When things are going well, I remember a couple of years ago when it seemed like every week we ran in the top 10, and you didn't ever want it to end. Now, I've still shown up here at Phoenix with the confidence that you're going to win. We brought a different car and a different front-end package, and you always think that you're going to have what it takes to get to victory lane. I'm ready for it to be over just so we can regroup our program and get it on track."

AT WHAT POINT DID YOU FEEL IT WASN'T QUITE RIGHT? "Our speedway program and our road course program have been great all year. You know, we were in the top 10 at Fontana the second race, but really we just never had the speed that the other teams in Roush had. Like I say, racers are so optimistic. Every week you show up and you think you're going to win and you feel that way, and if you don't, you need to find something else to do. I don't think you ever give up hope and think that things aren't going well. You always think that you're going to address whatever problems you had the week before and make it better."

HOW HARD HAS THIS SEASON BEEN ON THE CREW? "It's very tough on all of the guys on our team. Everyone gets down and the thing is, the crewmembers, they work harder than any of the drivers do. They're the guys that after you get home Sunday night at 10 or 11 o'clock, they have to be back at the shop at 7 a.m. and start working again. It's probably harder on crewmembers than what it is on the drivers. When you're a driver your name is on the door, so whenever there is a problem, you're the one that's going to get the blame. It's very stressful, I know, for everybody on the team. I've never really been in this position. Even when you had a bad year with my previous race team, we maybe could still run in the top 15 and have one or two bad weeks. It's kinda every week right now and it's very frustrating. I don't yell when things are bad and I don't really praise when things are great. I think every driver has different relationships with their teams, and with my guys, I feel like everyone knows they can come talk to me if there's something wrong. When things go well, I tell guys, 'Great job,' or whatever. But, it's very hard whenever week in and week out you're struggling."

HAS JACK ROUSH GIVEN YOU ANY PEP TALKS? "Jack has been my biggest fan, I would say. He reassures me every week that he doesn't feel that I've been the problem, but at the same time with Crown Royal and Irwin, they're only going to want to stay around so long running the way that we are. He knows that and I know that, but they've been very supportive, and we have to get our program turned around within the first part of next season and have a good year next year."

DOES THAT MAKE NEXT YEAR A MAKE-OR-BREAK SEASON? "I think so. As bad as we've run this year, you can't go do that again. It's not fun for me and it's not fun for Jack, and it's not fun for anyone at Roush Racing or the sponsors. We certainly are happy to turn it around for next year."

WILL YOU EMERGE FROM THIS EXPERIENCE MENTALLY TOUGHER? "Well, I've made the statement before, 'It can't get much worse than this.' I've quit making that because I didn't think it could get worse and it did. It certainly, I think, builds character in someone to go through struggles, but at the same time, when things aren't going well for me here racing, there are a lot bigger issues in the world than our race team not doing well. But, we need to get it turned around."

AT ANY POINT DID YOU QUESTION YOURSELF AS TO WHETHER YOU DID THE RIGHT THING? "I've spoke with some other drivers that have moved from race team to race team, and all race teams have ups and downs. Last year, looking at Roush Racing, there was no one that was stronger, winning more races or running well every single week. This year, it hasn't gone as well for the whole organization as what last year did. So, I don't doubt it at all. I enjoy being here and I've made the comment numerous times that I don't ever want to leave. Even if things don't go well, I'm going to tough this out and hopefully be at Roush Racing forever. It's a huge change, not only learning everyone's name, but learning personalities and just being comfortable around a different race team. It took till a month or two ago that I felt comfortable going to the shop and just seeing everybody and knowing their names."

WHY WERE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE GOING TO THE SHOP BEFORE THAT TIME? "You just don't know anyone. You show up and everybody knows your name. You have something when I stayed at Ganassi for three years. When I walked in, I knew everyone. I knew that their kids played soccer; I knew their wives just had a baby. When you develop those relationships, it's hard to get that back. It just takes time to build that up. There's a comfort zone there when you know everyone and everyone knows you. You have a different relationship than when you initially go to another team."

DISCUSS THE EVALUATION PROCESS IN CHOOSING A NEW CREW CHIEF? "We're looking at two or three guys, and we're going to evaluate it with all of the other crew chiefs at Roush to make sure everyone wants to work with that individual, and we'll get that picked out in the next few weeks."

WHO IS YOUR CREW CHIEF THIS WEEKEND? "This week, it's Chad Norris that is going to act as the crew chief, and Wally is going to maybe be his shadow. Since Wally is leaving in a month they want someone who's going to be here to be a part of this. Chad was a crew chief in Busch Series and Chad has been around for a long time. He's a super-smart individual and very motivated, so Chad will do a really good job for us."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO CARL SINCE THE CHANGE WAS ANNOUNCED? "I have not talked to Carl. Carl is in his airplane a lot. I came to Phoenix early, and Jack and Max Jones called me and told me what was going to happen. I understand the side of wanting to put Bob back with Carl right now so that they can start building that team. I think it was a hard decision on their part."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jamie McMurray , Max Jones