DRIVER CHANGE IN NO. 88 - JR Motorsports announced Tuesday that full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray will begin a nine-race schedule in the No. 88 Hellmann's Chevrolet starting this weekend. McMurray replaces Kelly Bires, who was ...
DRIVER CHANGE IN NO. 88 - JR Motorsports announced Tuesday that full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray will begin a nine-race schedule in the No. 88 Hellmann's Chevrolet starting this weekend. McMurray replaces Kelly Bires, who was released from his contract. Following Saturday's O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway,
McMurray's race schedule will include Talladega (April 24), Richmond (April 30), Darlington (May 7), Dover (May 15), Charlotte (May 30), Chicagoland (July 9), Atlanta (Sept. 4) and again at Charlotte (Oct. 15). Hellmann's will be the primary sponsor in all but two of those races, and the Suave Men brand will be featured on the No. 88 at Chicagoland Speedway. (Quotes from general manager Kelley Earnhardt below.)
NO. 88 IN THE LONE STAR STATE - The No. 88 Hellmann's team has enjoyed recent success at Texas Motor Speedway. The team has not finished worse than seventh in its last three outings at the facility, including a pair of top-five finishes.
MCMURRAY AT TEXAS - McMurray owns nine career Nationwide Series starts at the 1.5-mile facility. He has earned one top-five and one top-10 finish with 25 laps led. His average start is 18.0 and average finish is 21.2. McMurray hasn't started a Nationwide Series race since driving for Roush Fenway Racing in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2008.
TEXAS DEBUT - Cassill owns 27 career starts in the Nationwide Series, but has yet to compete at Texas Motor Speedway. He does have one start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway - a comparable track to Texas - starting eighth and finishing ninth during that event in 2008.
ON THE MOVE - Despite finishing 17th at Phoenix International Raceway last week after a late-race accident on pit road, the No. 88 team still gained two spots in the 2010 owner points and now are ranked 13th.
WORD FROM THE DRIVERS
No. 88 Hellmann's Chevrolet
What are you anticipating working with JR Motorsports this weekend at Texas? "It's been awhile since I've raced in the Nationwide Series, but how can you pass up an opportunity to have Dale Jr. as a boss? We've been buddies for a long time. I might even call him 'boss' when I'm passing him in the garage just to see what kind of reaction I get! I'm doing this to have a little fun and help out however I can. JR Motorsports is obviously a great team. Tony Eury Sr. is a legend. I was at the shop (Tuesday) getting my seat put in the car, and it was fun being around that guy. He's pretty intense, but he's old-school and a likeable guy. He doesn't beat around the bush, and you're never left wondering what's in his mind. My goal here is to help this team and race the Hellmann's Chevrolet as hard as I can. Should be good times."
Your last Nationwide race was in 2008. Are you ready for the physical toll of a double-duty schedule again? "I'm in good shape. I work out daily. If anything, this helps justify why I work out, because sometimes when you're trying to get that extra crunch it's easy to ask, 'Why am I do this to myself?' (laughing). I know going back-and-forth on Friday can be a grind on some days, but my priority is with my Bass Pro Shops/McDonalds team at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. I will always make sure we are taken care of on the Cup side before going to the Nationwide side. The good thing about driving a part-time deal for JR Motorsports is they are used to dealing with double-duty drivers. Dale Jr. does it, Danica Patrick does it on a much different scale, and there are a handful of Cup drivers who have driven their cars the past few years. I know what they expect from me, and it aligns well with all that I have to do at the race track each weekend."
No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
What is it like for a driver when you prepare for a track you haven't race on before? "I haven't run at Texas yet, but I've done a lot of Cup testing at different racetracks that are somewhat similar. Places like Chicago, Kansas and Michigan. I've raced at Kentucky quite a bit, so it's not like I'm unprepared or don't know what to expect. Texas is one of those faster intermediate tracks that everybody looks forward to. It's also a big-name event. It's one of the more prestigious Nationwide races because of all the Cup drivers that will be in the field. Because of that, the difficulty bar will be set higher too. It's an honor to be able to compete at that track, and it's probably one of the most beautiful facilities in NASCAR. I think Texas will be good for us."
How did it feel to get back behind the wheel last weekend? "Last week didn't go exactly as we had planned, but I was really happy just being back in the car and getting back into a rhythm. I'm excited to keep going. I felt like we raced well with the Go Daddy Chevy in Phoenix. The car was good. It drove well and we picked up track position and gain some spots in the pits. Then we had a bad pit stop and a tough restart which ended our day. That's just all part of racing. You can't blame that on anything. Racing is tough and that's that. We're looking forward to a clean race at Texas. My goal is to bring the car home in one piece and showcase our equipment a bit more."
General Manager / Co-Owner, JR Motorsports
On this week's announcement to release Kelly Bires from the No. 88 team: "We are extremely appreciative of Kelly Bires and wish him the best, but internally it was evident the chemistry was simply not where it needed to be for us to compete at a high level. Sometimes you have to make these tough decisions. It's never something that's easy to do. Kelly is a fantastic guy, but the chemistry, the dynamics, our results, they haven't been where we want it. It's extremely important for us to have all the pieces of the puzzle together. We sell our sponsorships based on the caliber of team we are and the good finishes we can produce. It's important we do whatever we can to ensure that."
On what led to the decision to put Jamie McMurray in the car: "Well we know Jamie is a proven shoe to be in the car. He's a great guy. He's got a great attitude to work with. He can come in here and sit down with Pops and the team and get acclimated real quickly. From the standpoint of how we picked him, there's a very short list when you start looking at what drivers have what opportunities. You're list gets pretty short between sponsor conflicts and manufacturer conflicts and team conflicts. With us having a Hendrick (Motorsports) relationship, that's always in the backs of folks' minds when you're talking about drivers coming here to drive. We just wanted someone we knew could get in the car and give us some solid, good finishes. We want to get our car back up in the points and just get some good performances on the track for our sponsors. He was the guy who could do that for us. The list gets real short when looking at all the different obstacles involved.
On why JR Motorsports is putting a Cup driver in the 88 when our credo has always been to help develop younger drivers: "Our goal with the 88 stands the same - we want good talent in there. We want the Kelly Bires and Brad Keselowskis. We want a full-time Nationwide guy in our car. That's the purpose of our program and purpose of the 88 car. We want to contend for the championship all season long, and that's what we want to do in that car. Now with the No. 7 car, we have the 13 race-deal with Danica (Patrick), but now we want that car on the track full time. With that car, we are kind of playing around with some drivers. We have Landon (Cassill) in there this weekend at Texas. We had the opportunity to put Scott (Wimmer) in that car earlier, and we have the opportunity to put some other drivers in that car on down the road. We are just kind of looking for that talent, because that's what we want in the 88."