Atlanta II: Dodge - McMurray, Graves interview

JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING SINCE THE BIG WIN? "I've been doing lots of media, driving my Busch car, and we tested at Rockingham in the Cup car this week. It's kind of cool because...

JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING SINCE THE BIG WIN?

"I've been doing lots of media, driving my Busch car, and we tested at Rockingham in the Cup car this week. It's kind of cool because I'm getting to get in the car so much more than I ever have. If the year had finished out with just the Busch Series, we had no tests left. We just had the last five or six races. Now I get to run the Cup car and Busch car and get to do the two tests at Rockingham and Homestead. I'm in the car four or five days a week, and I think that's going to make it better for me."

HAVE YOU QUALIFIED FOR A CUP RACE YET?

"No, but I've got a good average so far. I haven't qualified one time yet. It would be nice to go out and qualify. I haven't been very good in qualifying in my Busch car, so I don't know. We tested at Rockingham this week and felt pretty good in qualifying trim. I'd say if we could hit on something here it wouldn't be that big a deal. The toughest part is going to be going from my Busch car in race trim and then getting in a Cup car in qualifying trim. There's so much difference anyway, but it's pretty extreme to go from one to the other. I think that will be tough on me, because I've never done it before. They do drive different, and the Cup car runs so much faster getting into the corner, especially with the Cup car being in qualifying trim and the Busch car being in race trim. It's going to be a little bit of a challenge."

HOW WAS THE BUSCH RACE AT MEMPHIS LAST WEEK?

"We missed it in qualifying. We unloaded horrible and worked all weekend trying to get the car better, and we got it better. We didn't feel like we had a third-place car, but we had good pit stops and good pit strategy and by the end the car was a lot better. We had a little bit of luck on our side. We finished second at Richmond and fourth at Nazareth and fifth at Daytona, so third was pretty good. When you run Memphis and some of the other tracks where some of the Cup guys show up, it's a whole lot easier. Realistically, when you run with Cup, five of the top 10 are Cup drivers. It makes it a whole lot easier when you don't have to race the Cup regulars."

HAS IT ALL SUNK IN YET?

"I think it has. I was more excited three or four days afterward than I was at that time. I got the flag today, and that's kind of cool. You can't really gloat on all of that. That was one of the things at Memphis. We didn't qualify well and we had to suck it up and start 37th and make the most of it and we did. That's what we're going to do this weekend, not let everybody build us up too much. We've got to realize we can have a terrible weekend this weekend if we don't give it 100 percent. We've got to try to stay focused."

HOW HAVE THE CUP DRIVERS TREATED YOU?

"Everybody came up and said 'congratulations.' It's pretty cool because I don't know hardly any of the Cup guys. We tested at Rockingham this week and Jeff Gordon came over and said good job and we talked a little bit. I saw Michael Waltrip in the motorhome lot last night and the same thing. That's kind of cool. You get to know them a little bit. This is so good for me for next year. Even though I'm going to be a rookie, I'm getting so much experience. I'm getting to know these guys, so this is something you can't buy and something only time helps take care of, so it's really a good opportunity."

IS THIS THE SAME DODGE YOU WON WITH AT CHARLOTTE?

"This is the same car that won at Charlotte. You could take the same car to the same track the next day and not do well with it. We would hope we're going to do well, but this sport is very humbling and it doesn't matter what you did last week. You go into each week with an open mind and hope you hit on it."

HAS IT BEEN HARD COMING BACK DOWN TO EARTH?

"No, I don't think so. I've been so busy, I haven't had time to really think about it much. Really, Thursday was my only free day. I slept in until 9 o'clock and watched TV for a few hours. It felt really good just to sit down and not do anything. We've been so busy with testing and doing so much other stuff, I haven't had time to drink it all in. There is a lot of pressure, but nobody puts more pressure on me than I put on myself. It wouldn't matter if I won last week or finished last. There's still going to be pressure to do well. I just want to make sure at the end of the day that I've done all I could I'm going to feel like I won anyway. If that means we run second or 42nd, as long as I gave 100 percent and there was nothing more I could do, then I'm going to be happy."

DID YOU REALLY THINK YOU COULD WIN AT CHARLOTTE?

"Saturday morning, no. Saturday after Happy Hour, I didn't know if we could have won it but I felt like we could finish in the top 10. I didn't know what to think about the length of the race. I'd never done anything like that, but my car felt so good, I wasn't even tired. When you run up front, it always seems that cars run cooler and always drive easier. At one point in the race we were running 10th or 12th, and I thought, 'man, if I could just finish this out and end up with a top 10 it's going to be huge. I really wasn't all that nervous the last hundred laps. I was, but the car was so good and I was so focused on what needed to get done, well, it was more nerve-racking watching it on TV than it was driving the car. I've never got to sit down and watch all of it. I caught part of it on Speed Vision. I did the deal with Allen Bestwick and Wally (Dallenbach) at Memphis last week where I commentated during the rain delay and got to watch a little bit of it there. Watching it on TV, some things happened that I didn't even know about. When Bobby got beside me with lapped traffic and stuff, at that time it wasn't that big a deal. If he ever got past me, I don't know if I could have passed him back. I don't think I could have, but gosh, what a weekend."

HAVE YOU HAD MUCH EXPERIENCE AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY?

"I tested a truck here a couple of years ago for Dodge. I ran the Busch race here last March. I had a pretty good car, but it's going to take a little while to catch on to the race track. In the Busch car, I'm not nearly as worried about it because none of those guys have been here in over a year, either. On this side, they all ran here earlier this year and they've got so much more experience at this track. Hopefully if we can get some Busch practice in that will help me a lot."

ARE YOU EVEN MORE EXCITED ABOUT NEXT YEAR NOW?

"I was pretty pumped up before. I think I'm more excited about next season. It's such a great race team. They have everything it takes to win here, and that's pretty cool. Greg Biffle is going to be a Raybestos rookie contender next year and so is Jack Sprague. Those are two good drivers with two good teams. I would say the rookie battle is going to be pretty good next year."

WHAT HAS CHIP GANASSI TOLD YOU SINCE THE VICTORY?

"I talk to Chip about twice a week. He tells me to keep doing what I've been doing. He just told me to keep the same attitude. The money is cool, but my life hasn't changed the last two or three years. I've just got more money in the bank. I haven't bought any more toys. I'm so busy right now, but I'm sure one day it's going to change. Right now, I'm just racing and that's what I want. The thing I like most about racing is I get so bored with anything I can master or accomplish like video games and things like that. Once you can beat the game it's no fun to play it again. Racing is something that's always a challenge - they bring a different tire or change the rules - it's always a challenge and sometimes that makes it hard."

ANDY GRAVES (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

LOOKING BACK, HOW SURPRISED WERE YOU WITH McMURRAY'S WIN?

"I'm still in shock. It's pretty rare you see guys in their second Winston Cup race win. Really, I know Daytona and Talladega count as Winston Cup races, but this was basically his first open Winston Cup race, and Charlotte is a tough place. It's one of the toughest. Track conditions change so much. It's hard to put yourself in position to win at that place. I know a lot of guys have tried for years and years. The whole thing was pretty incredible, and Jamie did a great job."

SAME DODGE RUNNING AT ATLANTA. HAS IT RACED HERE BEFORE?

"We haven't, but that car runs really good at all the big places. That's basically our money car this year. Sterling won with it at Las Vegas and Darlington. It's not the same car that won at Charlotte last year. Believe it or not, the car that won at Charlotte last year is the one Mike Bliss had at Martinsville last week. I think this place is a little more forgiving than Charlotte. You have to be comfortable here. This is a place that will take your breath. If we miss the setup a little bit, then it's a hard place to drive. As long as the car is comfortable, I think the track is pretty forgiving. There's two or three different grooves you can run. It's pretty wide open. Obviously it's fast, but I don't think it's as technical as Charlotte."

WOULD YOU LIKE JAMIE TO HAVE A CHANCE TO QUALIFY?

"We'd like for him to get through a couple of qualifying sessions this year and get ready for next year. The racing experience is probably paying off even greater. I'm pretty happy so far. He's got a hell of a qualifying average going right now."

WHAT DOES JAMIE DO FOR AN ENCORE?

"I know that Chip and Felix have talked to him a little about that. Glover and I have talked to him. We told him not to get his head too high in the clouds and don't get down if you don't win another race this year or early next year. It's going to be awful tough to back that up. I'm sure a lot of people are going to be expecting a lot out of Jamie now. We've just got to go in there and do the best we can every week and get him some more experience."

IS STERLING COMING BACK AT PHOENIX?

"I really don't know. I know he wants to come back bad. Obviously Sterling is a racer and that's all he's ever done. He wants to get back in the saddle. First and foremost, he's got to get clearance from the doctors. It's my understanding he's got a checkup coming up next week to see how he's progressing. After that, it's up to Chip and Felix, and they'll make the call. From his perspective, I'd want to get back as quick as I could. He loves to race. It doesn't matter to him if it's for one race this year or two races this year. He'd race year-round if he could. The 40 is still Sterling's car. His name is still on the roof."

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WORK ON OVER THE WINTER?

"I felt like we worked hard last winter and came out in a good position to run for the championship this year. I think we can focus on the weaknesses we've had this year and some holes that are our weak spots. We'll focus on that and try to get stronger there. The job that Jamie has done already, we have all the confidence in the world that that team is going to be a strong team. It's been amazing what he's accomplished so far, but it's still going to take the first half of next year to get in with the chemistry week in and week out. He's still got to get used to all these places. We'll go to some race tracks where he's never run at all, Pocono for example. We'll have to get through that, and then the next biggest challenge is the 41 and evaluate that and get Spencer where he's up there in the top 10 in the points."

DO YOU THINK STERLING HAS USED UP ALL HIS BAD LUCK?

"You'd hope, but you never know. You've just got to go to the track every week and do the best you can. I think Glover is a little superstitious, but I don't know if you can worry about it too much. You've just got to do the best job you can. There is something to say that you make some of your luck."

ARE YOU GETTING ANY TIME OFF AFTER THE SEASON?

"We might sneak in a weekend at Christmas. The schedule might say February to November, but it's a year-round deal. It never ends. We're working on stuff right now for next year. We've got a planner with cars being built that goes all the way to June 1 next year. Before that, we're going to be working on '04 stuff. He's gone to another level of being ready and looking ahead. A lot of people might laugh at some of the comparisons that are made to F-1. Ray went to Indy and talked to the McLaren guys. There's really a lot of learn from their schedules and how they lay stuff out. We don't have ties with McLaren, but we've got some ties with Williams. It helps to be able to talk to those guys from time to time. It helps to understand their philosophies and what they do."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip , Greg Biffle , Jack Sprague , Mike Bliss , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing