Michigan II: McMurray - Dodge Friday interview

JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Home 123/Havoline Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON MAKING THE CHASE "I went through it last year, and I already know the disappointment of not making it. At this time last year I was really stressed out and worried every day...

JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Home 123/Havoline Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON MAKING THE CHASE "I went through it last year, and I already know the disappointment of not making it. At this time last year I was really stressed out and worried every day about how it was going to turn out and what it would be like if we did make it. I feel really good about it this year. We tested at Bristol last week and had a really good test. We saved a test for Richmond, and I believe I finished in the top 10 last year at all of these next four races and had a couple of top fives. They are good racetracks for us. The things I've noticed this year the guys that are sixth to 14th run well one week and the next week, whether it's their fault or somebody else's, they either get wrecked or have engine problems or something freak happens and it results in a 40th-place finish. You make up all this ground and then you have it all taken away in one week. The biggest thing for us is to make sure we finish all these races, and we'll run well enough if we do finish to be OK. I rank 13th at Watkins Glen and I was somewhat disappointed because we had a clutch problem, and I thought we should have run better. We ended up gaining two spots and finishing 13th, so if we can do that the rest of the season for the next four races we'll be OK."

DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE A HANDLE ON THE DODGE CHARGER? "It's funny because at Fontana which was the first downforce track, I think we ran fourth and thought we really had the cars figured out. It's really easy to blame it on your aero package and say the make, we need to work on a different nose or we need a new tail. Racing, if you look at the end of last year, Jimmie Johnson was pretty much unstoppable. He won every week it seemed like. If he didn't, he ran in the top five. Jimmie is still running well, but not near as well as he did. At the beginning of the season Greg Biffle ran really well, and now it's Tony Stewart. Racing is very easy to blame on bodies and everything that goes along with it, but when everything starts going your way and you find a good rhythm and you find small things that work for you racing becomes fairly easy and it's a lot of fun. I don't know. I'd love to tell you yes or no, but it seems like our race team is like other ones. One week we'll go to an aero track and do well and then you go some weeks later and you struggle. We're obviously not as consistent as we need to be, but only four or five teams are consistent."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WORDS 'LAME DUCK'? "Every time you get in the car you're going to drive as hard as you can. I can't speak for Kurt or anybody else in my position, but I feel like I'm one of the easiest guys in the world to get along with. I pretty much laugh, tell jokes, no matter what I'm usually in a pretty good mood. The guys on my team, we're not even looking at that right now. Donnie (Wingo) my crew chief, we played golf three or four times the last couple of weeks and he's been flying with me on my plane. Our relationship is as good as ever. I think as long as you have that relationship with your team and you have a good time, and now when we come to the racetrack we're having fun. Everything the press writes about is negative kind of keys you a little more. Sometimes they're saying things that are out of your control. Kurt Busch made his announcement last week and something happened to his sway bar. That had nothing to do with his team giving up on him or him giving up on his team. It's just what happened. At Loudon, the week everybody found out about mine, I finished 40th because I got wrecked. That wasn't anyone's fault. That's just the way it worked out. I guess everything happens for a reason, but sometimes it's out of your control."

COMMENT ON REED SORENSON "It's going to be tough (running Busch and Cup fulltime in 2006). Carl Edwards obviously has done it this year, but if you look at Carl they started out a lot stronger in both series than they are right now, but they still run well periodically. It's going to be tough. Reed is fortunate in that he's doing it with the same team. I think it would be hard for me to do it fulltime with Rusty's Busch team and a full season with my Cup team because you're doing it with two organizations. The fact that Reed's doing it with the same team might make it a little bit easier, but Cup is such a big step. Trucks to Busch is a big step, but when you go from Busch to Cup the demands of your time and the pressure put on you is a huge step. Reed is going to be fortunate because Target -- I bet that Casey hasn't made 10 appearances in three years for Target. They just have a different program. With Havoline or Home 123 I make quite a few appearances. That will make it a little easier on Reed if he doesn't have to do a tremendous amount of appearances. But it's still going to be really tough, and Reed hasn't even run a Cup race yet. But, I think that Reed is a great racecar driver. He's not only fast, but Reed makes great decisions on the racetrack. I've watched him, and any time somebody new comes in you're a little bit standoffish. You kind of want them to prove themselves to you, at least that's the way I feel. I think that Reed has done an incredible job this year in the Busch Series. It's so frustrating when things don't go your way. Carl was very fortunate at the beginning of the season. He was winning in both series and ran well every week. That really got his season off to a good start. I think if you started off running the Busch Series and were struggling a little bit it would be really hard."

COMMENT ON JEFF GORDON'S COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR SITUATION "Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Jeff Gordon has always been in a situation where he's with a championship caliber team and has pretty much won races every year after the first year. If that's how Jeff feels, that's great. Everybody's got to do what they feel is best for them. In my situation, I've been with Chip for three years. I was very fortunate to win in my second start. That's when our organization was winning a lot of races. This is my third year, and we've come close to winning some races, but I just don't feel we're

improving enough from where we started three years ago. That has nothing to do with the people. I feel like we have a really intelligent group of people and beautiful racecars. I think we have some of the nicest racecars in the series, but sometimes things just don't work out. I feel like for myself, if I'd won a championship last year and won two or three races this year, you couldn't get me to leave my team. I would still be with my team because that's what it's all about -- winning. I'm not sure why Kurt is making his decision. I'm sure he's doing what he thinks is best for him. I'm basing mine on I want to go where I think I can win."

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT DRIVING THE 42 NEXT SEASON? "My engineer gives me a memory stick with setups on it every week. All it really is springs, geometry settings, pretty generic stuff. My take on that is we're getting beat by the team I'm going to right now. I don't know why they'd want my information. I don't mean that in a bad way. We build our own chassis and they're different than Hendrick or Roush uses, not a lot, but a little bit. There's probably only a couple of drivers in the garage who know enough about shocks to take it to another team. I don't really see that being a problem. A guy on the internet said Mark's season was a salute to the fans. I read on the internet that my next season was going to be my one-finger salute to you know who tour."

DO YOU THINK DONNIE AND YOU WILL BE WORKING TOGETHER NEXT YEAR? "I'm sure we will be. Chip is not trying to pay me back for leaving. Every car owner has had drivers that want to leave at times. Chip understands that I'm doing what I feel is best for me. He wants to win. I think they feel like right now the 42 team is our best right now and I don't see any reason why they would try to split it up. One of the crew members was possibly going to leave a few weeks ago, and he said 'I'm not going to let anything tear this team apart right now.' I don't see him changing anything, unless Donnie or I feel like we need to make a change. I think I've got one of the best crew chiefs in the sport. He's knowledgeable about racecars and shocks and springs and he's a really good guy and he's really good about keeping people together. I think that's a hard part of our sport for crew chiefs to keep everybody happy. Donnie does a good job of that."

DO YOU WANT TO TAKE DONNIE WITH YOU? "Sometimes crew chiefs' hands are tied with an organization. I think Donnie is great, but that's a tough question to answer. I'd love to take Donnie with me. I think he's great, but on the other hand Donnie has his contract and his own obligations and Donnie has to do he feels would be right. When I made the commitment to go to the 6 team, I knew that Pat Tryson would be the crew chief, and I don't want to break that up."

IS THERE ANYONE 11TH-15TH THAT YOU THINK HAS A GOOD CHANCE TO MAKE THE CHASE? "I think Jeff Gordon is probably the guy everyone is looking at. I don't know what Jeff has done, but he's made somebody mad. He has more flat tires and more bad luck than anyone in the series right now. He had a great car last week at Watkins Glen. He got a flat tire and went all the way to the back. I think Jeff is someone people are looking at. It blows my mind that he's won three races and he's behind me in points and I haven't won a race. Elliott Sadler is the same way. They seem to run well, but he's had a lot of bad luck. He was third in points a couple of months ago. We were talking and I told him he was a sure thing. He said, 'I don't think so.' I never would have guess he'd be behind me right now, either. Race teams go in cycles. Right now, I think we're at the end of odd things happening to us. I hope the next four races we'll be OK."

IF JACK LETS KURT GO, DO YOU THINK CHIP WILL LET YOU GO? "I'd like to think that. I'd like to see Chip, Jack and Roger get in a room and work everything out. That would be great, but I don't think that's going to happen. I don't really think what happens to Kurt is going to affect me. I think that each driver, team and sponsor has their own situation. I think a lot of it is up to the sponsor on both sides. I don't know Kurt's situation. Obviously I talk to Jeff Smith and Jack on a weekly basis, but I don't discuss what's going to happen to Kurt. It's none of my business. It's just odd we're kind of going through the same thing. I think a lot of it will depend on what drivers become available. I think if a good driver became available then they could afford to let you go. If not, they've already got you committed for another year, and that gives them another year to look for someone. I understand Chip's side of that. If I was in Chip's shoes and had a year to find someone else, that's what I would do."

HAVE YOU LOST ANY FOCUS? "When I talked with Jack the first time he said he didn't want to interfere at all with what I had. You can't. That's part of the contract, and you can't interfere with the contract. Jack had told me that from the start because he wouldn't want the same thing to happen to him. It just so happens the same thing happened to him. I don't really discuss with Jack, 'am I going to be there next year? Am I not?' We talk as friends and I ask how his cars are running? I haven't really gotten into that, but the very first time I talked to Jack he never had any intentions of buying me out of my contract or getting a sponsor to buy me out of my contract. He would leave that up to me if I wanted to do that, but the first time I sat down with Chip in Daytona I told him I told him I was going to sign a contract with another team and I don't want you to counter offer because I'm not doing it for money. I'm doing it because this is what I want to do. He said, 'OK., as long as you're committed to me through 2006.' I said 'definitely.' I've never even asked to be released from my contract. I felt if the sponsor didn't want me or Chip didn't want me anymore they'd left me go. I knew I'd have a ride. Jack told me if I got fired or my option wasn't renewed he'd find a ride to put me in. He said if not we'd wait until 2007. I've just been going with the flow, and honestly guys, I don't pay attention to it. I was only home for about five hours this week. I came home and tested cars Monday and tested Bristol Tuesday and Wednesday and I played golf yesterday. I don't pay attention."

HOW FRUSTRATED ARE YOU THAT YOU HAVEN'T WON IN THE LAST 98 RACES? "That's why I'm going to Roush Racing. That's the deal. I don't necessarily mean that against Chip because possibly they can put another driver in that car and he might win a lot. I've seen the Roush organization switch crew chiefs and both teams went from running average to really well. So, sometimes a mixup is good. If I hadn't won at Charlotte, or some Busch races everybody might have written me off and said, 'he's not a winner.' You only get so many years until you're not a winner. I've been fortunate enough I've running better than average I guess, a lot of top 10s. It seems like I ran in the top 10 every week at the end of last year. We couldn't win, but we could run in the top 10 every week. I've been fortunate to have other options come to me and say drive our car. That's why I'm doing something different. You only get to have so many years of being call a winner before you're established as being not a winner, and I don't want to be in that group. I felt fortunate that everybody thought I was going to Rusty's car. No one had any idea I was going to get in the 6 car. It's amazing to me. The day I signed a contract, that night Jim Utter called me. I'm like, 'how in the hell do you know this already?' I hadn't even told my dad yet, so you guys are really good at finding out information. Ganassi obviously didn't want the announcement to get out, and I understand his side of that. He was concerned that the rumors would be so farfetched that we would never be able to get to the reason why we really did it. The other reason is that Roush had to go sell me to a sponsor and you couldn't really sell me to a sponsor without making an announcement. It's better to get it out in the open and talk about it a little bit I guess. Initially it was very difficult to talk about. I was worried about upsetting my team and sponsor. It has not been as bad as I expected, but I hope I never go through it again. When I signed with Chip, I honestly hoped I'd be there for my career. It didn't work out that way. Now, I hope I get to be with Roush forever."

WHAT IS THE TEAM MISSING? "I feel like sometimes maybe we're kinda on the behind stages... When they had the shocks that jacked the car up in the back, we didn't catch on to that until the last two weeks. Then we didn't have time to make it work for us. We're a little bit behind. It's no one's fault. It's just the way it's been. On the other hand, three years ago they were winning a lot and we were on the front side of that. It kinda happens in cycles. No one in here would believe Tony Stewart has won five races if they looked 10 races into the season. They were running horrible, and then they hit on something and now they're winning every week. There's not one thing that makes a team win or lose. It's a combination of a lot and honestly it wouldn't surprise me to see Ganassi be on top of it in two or three years and winning races. I don't know that, but it wouldn't surprise me. They do a really good job with the engineering staff. They brought a lot of what they do in IRL racing to our sport. It's going to take awhile to get all that worked in. That's what they're headed toward, and I think that's a great idea."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Jeff Smith