Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, Nov. 16 2004 Homestead-MiamiAdvance JAMIE McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) NOTE: McMurray has clinched 11th place in the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He has 11 top 10 finishes in the past...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, Nov. 16 2004
JAMIE McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge)
NOTE: McMurray has clinched 11th place in the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He has 11 top 10 finishes in the past 13 races and has an average finish of 9.22 in the 9 Chase races. He's won back-to-back Busch races and won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in October at Martinsville. He's fresh off a fourth-place finish in last Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington and he's the defending pole winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"With the exception of some of the problems we had early on, it seemed like we had all of the Ganassi engine failures early on in the season, but other than that it's been pretty good. It seems like every single week we can finish in the top 10. Some of those weeks we can finish in the top five and some of those weeks we've had shots to win races. We've struggled a little bit in the pits, and that's probably cost us here and there, but other than that it's been pretty good."
COMMENT ON NOT MAKING THE CHASE AND FINISHING 11TH
"Obviously when we didn't make the Chase that was our goal. I think a lot of people, and when I say that I mean the media, I think a lot of them thought that when we didn't make The Chase, us and the other five or six teams, that maybe our season would be over with, but our team got stronger it seems like. Luck started going our way where maybe we didn't have some of that earlier in the year, but from Richmond on it was really good. Every single week we were fast and Talladega is the only race we really struggled at. Even at Phoenix where I finished (24th) I was running eighth with 20 laps to go and had new tires where a lot of guys in front of me didn't and got together with the 88 and spun myself out."
COMMENT ON THE 25-POINT PENALTY
"I think that's probably the easiest... I think that's what everybody looks at the most as to why we didn't make the Chase, but we shouldn't have been that close. We should have been somewhere in the top seven in points and it shouldn't even have been an issue. Everyone wants to look at that. All we had to do was finish one spot better in three or four races and we would have made it. It's easy to look at that, but the engine failures obviously hurt us a lot and the point penalty at Bristol hurt, but it's hard to put it on just one thing."
COMMENT ON RUMORS ABOUT YOU GOING TO PENSKE RACING SOUTH
"That's just rumors, and I guess I got to be a part of it this season. I have not talked to anyone at Penske about ever driving the 2 car. Rusty Wallace is one of my best friends right now, and he's actually my owner in the Busch Series. He's never approached me with any offer to go drive that car or ever insinuated anything about me driving it. It's just sort of the media wanting to, I guess they didn't have anything to write about that week so I became a part of the rumor mill. I don't pay attention to that. Throughout the summer, I had just moved to my new home and it's out in the country and didn't have the internet at the time. I didn't pay attention to it. I'd get to the racetrack and let my PR guy tell me what the rumors were this week. That's cool. As long as they're talking about you whether it's good or bad it's better than not being talked about at all, but I do my own thing. If things are going good, I don't pay attention to the rumors and if things are going bad, I don't pay attention to the rumors."
HAVE YOU NOTICED DALE EARNHARDT JR. GETTING MORE SERIOUS?
"I didn't know Junior until I met him at the spring race at Darlington. We hung out a little bit and then went on a vacation together. He was serious at that time. I think the whole thing about Junior, I went over to see him this weekend at Darlington and I didn't even know he'd crashed in practice. I was just sitting there talking with him and we were just goofing off. I said, 'how's your car?' And he said, 'This is my backup.' You wouldn't have known he'd even wrecked his car. He's very easy going, and he has a lot of confidence in his team and himself and people used to talk about that he wasn't serious enough and that he slept until noon. I don't sleep until noon, but I don't think that makes you any less serious about it. I think Dale Jr. is very serious about what he does. He's very focused when he needs to be focused and he has a good trait in that when he's away from the racetrack he can have a good time. It's very hard when you do what we do not to always be serious. That's one of the things I've learned this year. When you get away from the racetrack you need to have a separate life and not stress out and worry about what's going on at the racetrack. Sometimes you just need to get away, and Dale Jr. is real good about that."
WAS HE THE SAME GUY AFTER THE SPORTSCAR CRASH AT SONOMA?
"The only thing I noticed is that he wears fireproof underwear under his driver's suit. That actually made me start wearing underwear underneath my suit. I went over to his motorhome and saw his burns. He told me he didn't want to preach to anybody but he said he'd never get back in a racecar again without having the underwear on. If you ever see anybody burned, it'll make you think twice about it. Basically I started wearing it also at the same time."
WHAT MAKES THE 48 TEAM SO STRONG?
"I think the 48 team has probably been the strongest team all season long. I remember thinking back to Charlotte, the 600, Jimmie's car was half a second faster than anybody's. Every year there's a team that runs really well, and this year it's been the 48 team. When we got to The Chase they had their problems at that time. They really hadn't had a lot of issues before that, but that team is on. They've got great pit stops. Jimmie is a great racecar driver Hendrick has some awesome engines and great racecars and when you put all that together it's hard to beat. Jimmie and that team are on top of their game right now. The rules seem to suit Jimmie's driving style and they're just on. They haven't done anything different in the last five races. They've been on every single week."
WHY ARE THREE GUYS AT THE TOP OF THE HEAP?
"I think it's that way every year. If you look back there's always three or four guys that... Look at Matt Kenseth last year. It seems like every race he was in the top 10. Maybe he didn't race there the whole race, but that team was strong enough to pull it together at the end. That's been our case. We've been a top 10 or a top five car and by the end of the race we put ourself in that position. Kurt and Jimmie are doing the same thing. Kurt didn't have a very good car this week, but they used some good pit strategy and the pit crew got him up front and he was able to stay there. Every year you have guys that run well. It has nothing to do with how tough the competition is. If guys don't have a little bit of luck on their side it's hard to do well in this sport. Look back at some of the races. Jeff Gordon has been fast every week, but I can look back at him breaking a gear at Atlanta and having a bad finish. You've just got to have a little bit of luck on your side."
COMMENT ON LIQUOR SPONSORSHIP
"That's fine with me. I don't really see a big difference between having that and Coors Light as a sponsor. I don't see a big difference in that personally. I think it's great to bring new sponsors into the sport. The 99 is a team that doesn't have a sponsor. Jack is paying for that out of his pocket or getting one race deals, so I think it's wonderful to see those people are interested in our sport, and it'll be nice having them around."
IS IT A DISTRACTION TO HAVE A MOB AROUND JUNIOR IN THE GARAGE?
"I've never heard him say anything about it. It's no different for Junior than it is for me or Elliott. You want that following. It makes you feel good. There are times when it might bug you and you want some time alone, but for the most part I don't know that can ever hurt you. It makes you feel good to know people want to be around you and want a part of you. I don't think that's a big distraction. He's really good at handling that. He grew up with his day, who was obviously the man and always had that also. It's always been a part of Junior's life, so I don't think it's all that disturbing"
IF JUNIOR WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP COULD YOU IMAGINE HIS POPULARITY GETTING BIGGER THAN IT IS NOW?
"No, but I'm sure it will. It's amazing. Elliott Sadler and I joke around. When you go to the NASCAR races it looks like a home game at Alabama with all the red that's in the stands. It's amazing to see how popular that kid is. He's my buddy, and I think it's great for him."
TALK ABOUT YOUR BUSCH WIN AT DARLINGTON
"It's probably one of my best wins. Obviously the win at Charlotte was a big deal for me, winning my second Cup start. I thought about that a lot during that race. Man, I'm going to get Rusty is first win (as a car owner). He's worked hard putting that team together. It's a different kind of excitement for him. It's something he's built and he told me when I first started driving his car that all he wanted to do was go up to the suite, smoke a cigar and say that's my car and be a proud owner. When I pulled into victory lane I saw him standing there and that's all I could think about. It was real exciting for me to get a win at Darlington and to win for Rusty just makes it that much better."
COMMENT ON NEW CUP POINTS FORMAT
"You know what, I'm not a fan of it. I'd love to see it go back the other way. The way I look at it, it did not benefit me this year. It hurt me. I could have finished maybe top five in points, but instead I'm going to finish 11th. Next year I might run really good at the beginning of the year and make The Chase and have a bad second half and it might benefit me. I don't know. I'm just the guy who gets in the car and drives it. I play by the rules. Whatever they want to do, that's what you have to do. You can go at it with a negative attitude or go at it and just go with the flow, and that's what I'm doing."
WHAT'S THE PRIMARY FOCUS IN THE OFF SEASON?
"I've got a really busy off season. We're going to do a lot of testing. I'm going to Hawaii with Kasey Kahne and we're going to do some stuff for Fox for next season. It's just a typical winter, really busy doing photo shoots and that little stuff the sponsors are going to make us do. I might get to hang out with my buddies a little bit."
DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS FROM GANASSI?
"I'm at the race shop right now, doing some work on my helmets for next year. It feels great to pull into this place. When you turn off the road, it looks like a business park. It doesn't look like a raceshop. It's incredible to see what they've put together, and I know Target has helped out a lot with getting this building the way Chip and Felix wanted it. Felix is obviously a huge businessman and does a lot of big dealings, and he likes things to look good. Chip is the same way. I remember going to his Indy car shop a few years ago and couldn't believe how nice it was. Basically, all our Cup shop is is just an oversized Indy car shop. It makes you feel good to come in here and see what you have and see where they're building your cars."
HOW DO YOU KEEP UP WITH THE TOP TEAMS?
"We've had a shot to win two or three races, and I think if you'd add a couple of wins to the stats we have right now it would have been a great season. Everybody wants to win, but that's what makes it so great when you do win. You really appreciate the good times when you've been through the bad, but winning comes in streaks. I think I've proved that in the Busch Series. I went a bunch of races without winning and now I've won two in a row. I really believe that my team, as soon as we can win a race, that we'll win two or three, maybe four. We're strong enough to win races. I really believe we'll be a threat to win the championship. Even though we didn't have the season we wanted, we really weren't that far off so I'm really looking forward to next season."
TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR TEAMMATES
"Casey (Mears) and I are close to the same age, and we've become a lot closer this season. Last season we probably weren't as close as we needed to be, but Casey's program has stepped up a lot this year. He's run a lot better, and we've been able to compare some notes that we weren't able to do last year. Our teams have become closer, and anyone can get along with Sterling. That guy is a great individual and he's been around for a long time and I respect him. It makes for a good combination."
PICK A WINNER FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
"I think Jimmie Johnson. He's on such a hot streak right now. Those guys know how to win right now. I'm betting against Kurt Busch. It seems like the last two or three races he's struggled a little bit, and it just doesn't seem like that team is on the top of their game like the 48 and 24."
YOU'RE THE DEFENDING POLE WINNER AT HOMESTEAD. CAN YOU DO IT AGAIN?
"I'm not really a good qualifier. I don't really pay attention to qualifying. It'd be cool to be on the pole again, but it doesn't matter. That racetrack is wide enough. You can pass on it. We'll go down there and try. If we do, we do. If we don't, we don't. I can't think of how many times Ryan Newman has sat on the pole and in 20 laps I qualified 20th and pass him. I don't even pay any attention to it."
COMMENT ON NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE
"As far as performance wise, it's not going to make any difference. There's a lot of teams that put a lot of emphasis on qualifying. They put in two hours every Friday morning making the car go fast for two laps. We unload every single week in race trim and do an hour of race trim and then do two qualifying runs to make sure we qualify decent. So far, it's going to be better. I hate qualifying. I think it's very overrated. I'm glad they're going to do it that (new) way. I don't know if it's going to save a lot of money, but it's going to save those guys a lot of work converting those cars from qualifying trim to race trim. It's going to save some money eliminating the oils and fluids we use every week."
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE 11TH-PLACE MILLION?
"I don't know how much of that I'm going to get yet, but I'm big into retirement funds. Most of my money will go for me to use at a later date."
COMMENT ON 11TH PLACE FINISH
"Last year when we went to New York I think we finished 13th in points, and honestly I really didn't feel like I deserved to be there. I think that's reserved for guys that had a really good season. I'm looking forward to going this year. We didn't get to the Chase, so our next goal was to finish 11th and it's been a fairly successful season. I can't wait to get next year started."
WHY WAS IT EASY FOR YOU TO FIT IN IN THE CUP GARAGE?
"I never walk by anyone without trying to say hi to them and try to make eye contact. A lot of it has to do with the fact we ran well, and when we didn't run well I tried to stay out of the way. I didn't try to make something happen that wasn't possible. I think a lot of those guys respected that, and when we'd see 'em the next weekend they'd say thanks and they appreciated that. I'm an outgoing person. I've never had a problem trying to make friends. I'm nice to everybody and that makes it easier. With Donnie (crew chief Wingo) and I, we're not big on going and asking other people what they have. We try to figure it out for ourselves. That's something we're proud of. We don't have to ask around a lot. Donnie is sharp enough to get a good setup in the car to start with, and I'm good at giving good feedback. Typically we can get our car right without having to go around and ask a lot of questions. That doesn't happen a lot."
COMMENT ON TEAMMATES RACING FOR A TITLE
"I've thought about that before. I've seen Jimmie get up under Jeff and vice versa. They race each other hard and clean. Those guys are used to that. Almost every week they race together. They know how to race each other. Casey, Sterling and I don't typically run well on the same week, so I haven't got to race them a lot. The thing about NEXTEL Cup racing that people don't understand is that whether it's your teammate or not, when a guy catches you 30 laps into a race, you don't race him. You don't have anything to gain by it. I think with 10 laps to go for a win or a championship, those guys are going to do what it takes. They want to win. They don't want to wreck each other, but they're going to drive their tails off to win. Those two teams share everything they have, I would bet. We do at our shop. Everything we have, everyone else can have. I would guess Jimmie and Jeff aren't really big into the setup part of it, so there's probably not a lot to share there."
WHAT DOES MOMENTUM MEAN IN RACING?
"Momentum is a lot like confidence. You don't know you have it. You don't know what you did to get it, but when you don't have it you don't know how to get it back. When it's on your side, you feel like you can't do anything wrong. That 48 bunch going into this weekend, they feel like they're on top of the world. They had a real good test down there because I was down there with them. They're going to be tough this weekend. Jimmie feels like he's on the top of his game, and it's going to be a hard combination to beat this weekend."
HOW HAS MOMENTUM AFFECTED YOU?
"You just feel good everyday when you wake up. You feel good about going to the racetrack and when you make a decision in the car you feel like you're making the right decision. You don't doubt yourself. It's something wonderful to have on your side."
DISCUSS THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE YOUNGER DRIVERS
"We came in together in the last two or three years and we're close to the same age and a lot of us are new to this level of the sport. If we were married and had kids it would be different because you couldn't go and hang out, but we're not. We all live in the same town and it's tough to have friends when you race because you're always out of town. We have our own schedule and it just works."