Dodge this: Rookie of the Year

Dodge This Teleconference Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2003 Jamie McMurray and crew chief Donnie Wingo 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Havoline Dodge Intrepid) HOW IMPORTANT IS PLANNING? "Is hard to plan your goals. I think...

Dodge This Teleconference
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2003

Jamie McMurray and crew chief Donnie Wingo
2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year

JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Havoline Dodge Intrepid)

HOW IMPORTANT IS PLANNING?

"Is hard to plan your goals. I think everybody wants to win races and win championships, but everything has to go your way."

WHAT'S HELPED YOU MOST IN ROOKIE SEASON?

"I'm just me. I don't try to be anyone else. I say the way I feel and I think people like that - just being honest and not trying to put on a show or trying to be somebody else."

WHAT WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS YOU HAD TO HANDLE?

"When I drove in the Busch Series, the sponsor that I had didn't use the sponsorship to its full potential. They didn't use their driver for appearances and all the other things sponsors do. This year I stepped into the Winston Cup Series and Havoline used their sponsorship. I did appearances and Yellow, my sponsor in the Busch Series, used their sponsorship for everything it was worth. Doing appearances for both of those and all the testing, not only the NASCAR testing but the testing we would do at racetracks we don't even race at, that was a busy schedule. All I want to do is race, but you need some days when you're not racing. Maybe just going to the house and goofing off and getting racing out of my head for a few hours. My last month of racing, I think I was home two days between October and November, the last four races. When Homestead was over I was very glad. I didn't want the season to be over because we ended up on such a strong note, but at the same time I was glad to get a break."

DO ROOKIES HAVE TO ADJUST TO MORE THAN JUST RACING THE CAR?

"I think that's why they have a panel that votes on it. It's not just off your performance. It's also how you handle yourself with other competitors, the media, there's a lot that goes into it other than just on-track performance. I saw this when I was on the Pyramid game show with Kurt and Matt. You're so competitive. It doesn't matter what you're doing. You want to beat the other guy. Just like me, Greg, Casey and Tony, we all wanted to win. Nobody wants to join up for a competition and not win. Racing is more competitive than any other sport."

WHAT WERE THE EMOTIONS YOU FELT WINNING THE ROOKIE TITLE?

"It's a little bit different. With three races to go I had a 30-point lead. The only way Greg could beat me was to win all three races. I didn't count that out. You never know. I felt like for a few weeks there unless he did something really well and I really messed up that we were going to win. At the same time, there was a big sigh of relief for me. It's ironic, because when they told me that, we had just had a bad pit stop. We came in the pits third and went out sixth and then they left a lugnut off so I went all the way back to 20th. I was so fired up to get back to the front that I put that out. I didn't even think about it until it was over with."

YOURS PEERS VOTED YOU SPORTING NEWS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. HOW'S THAT FEEL?

"That's cool. I tried to do my best. I'm sure I made some people mad, and that's all part of it, but I tried to do my best to respect all those guys and race them when I needed to and when I didn't have a car that was capable of racing them, not to do something stupid to cause a wreck or hold someone up. It's hard for fans to realize what all goes on in the car. You're driving your heart out every lap, but there's a lot to the mental side of racing, thinking about what's going to go on later in the race. Mark Martin came up to me two or three times and said, 'man, you're doing the right thing. That's the way you're supposed to race.' I think that was one of the coolest things that happened to me this year as far as someone coming up and talking to me. I had two or three other drivers tell me the same thing. The champion said that. That meant a lot to me. It's cool to have them vote you as rookie of the year."

HOW WILL IT FEEL TO GET RID OF YELLOW STRIPE?

"I don't think the stripe on the bumper is as bad as all the rookies meetings you have to go to. When I first started in the truck series I wanted to go to those because they tell you things about racetracks that you don't know. When you get to the Busch Series, it's like you've got to do it all over again. When you get to Cup, you've already done those like 60 times and you've been to every one of those racetracks three or four times. You have to go. For the most part, it's the same meeting every week and it's just a routine, especially the second half of the season when you've already been to that racetrack with the same car with the same group of people. I'm most looking forward to not having to go to those meetings at 10:20 every Friday morning."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT MIKE MITLER'S PROGRAM?

"It's really neat for Mike that two of his former drivers went on to rookie of the year this year (Carl Edwards in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and McMurray in Cup). Mike told me the very first time I drove his truck, he's says it like a very honest man. If he doesn't think you can do it, then he won't say anything, but if he thinks you can he'll tell you. He told me many times, 'man, you've got what it takes.' He'd tell me the story about how he worked with Rusty Wallace and all the different drivers he worked with. I thought it was really ironic. After Carl drove his truck he said, 'Jamie, I'm telling you this kid has it.' He had drivers between me and Carl, and he never said that about any of them. He didn't bad mouth them, but he never said anything really positive. I started paying attention to Carl, and I think that's really neat for him. I'm really happy for Carl, too, and I said this about Matt Kenseth. None of us grew up in a wealthy family and bought our way here. We all just grew up loving racing and driving whatever we could. You just did the best you could. If it wasn't for people like Mike Mitler and all the other team owners that give kids chances, we wouldn't be here. Carl and I are from Missouri, and Matt is from Wisconsin. I've heard his story so many times the last week, about growing up racing. I think that's really neat."

HOW HAS RACING CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

"Everyone told me growing up don't change, just be yourself. I think I've done a really good job of that, but you have to change in order to accept this life. Even racing in the truck series or Busch Series full time, it gives you a good idea of what to expect in Winston Cup, but your time is so much more valuable when you get to Cup. Sponsors use you more. That's what they need to do, but your time.... They fly you everywhere. You dread having to fly to the west coast, but at the same time I appreciate that. That means they want to use you. They feel like they can use your face, your name, your personality to help sell their product. On one hand, you just want some time along, but if they didn't want to use me I'd be worried. I've heard guys say this for 10 years. They don't want more races added to the schedule, and they want more time with their families. I never really understood what they meant. I don't want any less races. I love it the way it is, and I don't want them to change anything, but I understand now what they were talking about.

"NASCAR makes the schedule the way it is, and it's hard to argue with them. I sit here complaining about my schedule, but my schedule is not as bad as the crew members have it. I take my girlfriend every week and we go stay in a motorhome. I just walk from the pits to the motorhome, and it's like my house. The crew guys are away from their families and they stay in hotels that sometimes aren't that great. They fly in a team plane and maybe get home later than the driver's plane. I don't know if the schedule is as hard on me as the crew guys.

"This is what I've wanted to do since I was eight. I'm thrilled the way it is right now, and I'm just happy to be here. The only difference would be I wish I could have won the Southern 500 and the Brickyard 400. That would have been perfect, but other than that there's no complaints at all.

"You're never going to make everybody happy. Nobody is going to win without a front line car and a front line team. All the cars that win are the best race cars, that's for sure. Nobody gets in an average car and wins in Winston Cup. It's too hard. Chip (car owner Ganassi) told me last year, and I think this is really good advise, I was reading about myself in Winston Cup Scene. I was laughing about what somebody had said. Chip said if I was going to read all the good stuff people say about me, that I also have to read all the bad. He said not to worry about what all these other people think. He said do what makes me happy and what I think is right for yourself and family. I took that to heart and have used that this year. If someone wrote bad about me, I didn't pay attention to it. If somebody wrote good, don't get me wrong. I like to see that stuff, but I try not to read as much now."

DONNIE WINGO (Crew Chief No. 42 Havoline Dodge Intrepid)

COMPARE END OF THE SEASON TO THE BEGINNING

"At the beginning of the year we started a whole new team with a group of new people together. Basically none of us had never worked together. I brought one or two people over I had worked with in the past, but basically it was a whole new team. We got off to a little bit of a slow start. It was kind of hit and miss the first half of the year. After we went to Chicago and the Indy test, everything started clicking. I think the second half of the year, each week we went we were competitive. Maybe some weeks we didn't have the car to win, but we definitely had a top-five car each week the second half of the year."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO HAVE A ROOKIE DRIVER?

"In some ways it may be a little difficult. With Jamie it's a different deal because he's had so much experience, and he did adapt well to every track. The second half of the year, the thing that helped us a lot was going back to the tracks where we had run earlier in the season. He can make calls and decisions on what he needs. He adapts so well in certain situations on what the car is doing or what the track is doing that day. He gives us good ideas to make good changes."

TALK ABOUT COMMUNICATION WITH THE DRIVER

"I think that's one thing you kinda get your lingo down where you communicate back and forth. I think the first half of the year we were getting that down. The second half of the year when he would say something, the team would kinda know which direction we were going to go. When he said it was pushing or loose, we knew which area we were supposed to be working in. That really helped the second half of the year. We could make good changes in the race, like at Homestead. We sat on the pole, but when the race started we were junk. We kept making the changes we had done in the past for the problems he was having. The car kept getting better and by the end of the race it was a competitive car. He'll usually tell you we need to make big changes or a small change. That's probably one thing that hurt us in some of the races this year. We didn't stay after it enough. At the beginning of the race we'd have a good car, but by the end of the race we hadn't made enough adjustments to keep up with the racetrack or keep up with the competition. That probably hurt us a few races this year. Toward the end of the year we started focusing on when we made our changes that we made enough changes during the race that we'd have a competitive car at the end of the race."

WHAT HAS IT MEANT TO YOU BEING WITH GANASSI RACING?

"I've learned a lot this year. We have so many resources, and I've got two other crew chiefs to bounce things off of, and also we've got Glove (Team Manager Tony Glover) and Andy (Team Manager Graves). That really helps me from the standpoint that if I've got an idea I've got a lot of people around me that I can bounce things off of and get their opinions."

YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS SEASON

"Andy and Glove really helped assemble this team, and they put a good group together. Everybody gets along good and by mid season when we were making a change you didn't hardly have to tell them what we were going to do. They were already thinking ahead. They knew what to do. I couldn't ask for a better group of people to work with. This is probably the best group of people I've ever worked with. We all work close. At Rockingham, they took our setup for the 40 car and Sterling had a real good race there. We're working close together, all three of us. We bounce things back and forth. We need to improve on getting our cars better during the race. Some of the races we'd start out good and the car wouldn't be that good at the end. We didn't keep up with the track. We need to improve in that area as far as making changes during the race. I don't think I did too good a job at that. Our pit crew has improved tremendously, and we need to keep improving on that because track position is so important now. Toward the end of the year we were gaining spots in the pits where at the beginning of the year we were losing spots."

HOW MANY CARS WILL YOU HAVE TO CUT UP DURING OFF SEASON?

"We're on that now. I don't think we're going to have to cut up as many cars as we thought we would. I think we can fix the areas on a lot of our cars, but some of our cars we want to cut the bodies off and make changes."

WHAT'S HARDEST PART OF YOUR JOB?

"Probably the most difficult part of my job now is being gone so much. The kids are growing up and I don't get to see them much. The biggest thing I need to do is keep harmony in the team. As long as everybody is getting along I'm usually pretty happy. The good part of my job is meeting new people all the time. NASCAR is just a big family, so it's fun to travel and meet new people."

WHY IS JAMIE McMURRAY A GOOD DRIVER?

"The way he races and he adapts so well. He can race well around other cars, and other drivers feel comfortable racing around him. He's just a good racer. We need to work on our qualifying a little bit, but I thought that got better toward the end of the year. When I saw him run those few races he ran last year, he's just so comfortable in the car. He's a good communicator, too. I'd compare him to maybe Jimmie Johnson or a Ryan Newman. Those guys come in and they're good racers and qualifiers. I think Jamie is very comparable to them. You've got to make sacrifices. This is basically all I've done my whole life. This is what I want to do, and my family kinda accepts it."

-dodge motorsports-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray , Carl Edwards , Mark Martin