Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, has a new crew chief in Larry Carter as he begins his second year with Roush Racing on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. McMurray held a Q&A session in the infield media center before ...
Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, has a new crew chief in Larry Carter as he begins his second year with Roush Racing on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. McMurray held a Q&A session in the infield media center before Wednesday's morning practice session.
JAMIE MCMURRAY -- No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion -- "Larry didn't actually start until January 2nd, so he's certainly new to the whole organization and trying to get to know everybody and I understand how that feels because of last year. Everywhere you go it's just a little bit different, but my relationship with Larry started a couple of years ago when he was Rusty's crew chief. When I was driving Rusty's Busch car, I got to know Larry really well. He had a previous relationship with Donnie Wingo, so the fact that Donnie was my crew chief and Rusty was my Busch car owner, I got to know Larry pretty well. So we already know each other pretty well and he's one of those guys that within a couple of minutes of meeting him you just kind of feel welcomed and he's a warm guy, so he's pretty easy to talk to."
CAN YOU PUT LAST YEAR BEHIND YOU OR WILL IT NAG FOR A WHILE? "We've changed so much. We've got a new crew chief, new car chief, new engineer, new tire guy, new guys at the shop. All of the cars are gonna be brand new. We pretty much have already changed everything. The deal with last year, I would tell myself after I'd go home after a race and say, 'I don't think it can get any worse,' and then I'd show up the next week and I'd be like, 'Wow, I was wrong.' The last 10 races, I don't know how many we finished, but I think we didn't finish more than we did finish. So when you don't run well and then you can't even finish it's so frustrating and you're so mentally beat up that I think when you get to that point that you just want it to be over. You just feel that there need to be a lot of changes to make you feel better. I always give my analogies to golf. It's kind of like having 15 bad holes of golf where you just want it to be over so you can start over again. I think for everyone, once you get the two or three weeks off and you feel refreshed and you're ready to get started again. When our season ended last year, we didn't know who the crew chief was gonna be and didn't really know who was gonna be on the team -- how many guys were gonna be willing to stay or what was gonna happen. It was a very stressful month or so after the season ended, but I had been talking with Larry. I wasn't 100 percent sure that he was gonna be able to come. He was the guy I wanted for a lot of reasons, but, basically, when I was with Donnie I didn't realize the way that the guy would make you feel personally -- whether it was talking on the telephone or just the friendship that you have. You don't really realize what you have going for you until you don't have that. When I came last year I only got to work with Jimmy for a few races. We never really got to have that friendship and with Bob, our personalities were just so much different. Bob certainly had the skills and qualities to make a car go fast, but we didn't have the off-track or mingling down -- just hanging out buddies. So I made a list of who I wanted to try and go get as a crew chief and I knew it would be a challenge, really, to get anybody to come over because when you run as bad as we did, no one really wants to come participate in your activity. So when I saw that Larry was somewhat willing from the get-go, I was excited about that because I already knew him well. I knew that I would be able to have the same relationship or friendship off of the race track as what I had with Donnie. I didn't realize how important that was to me until I didn't have it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT REBUILDING YOUR CONFIDENCE? "Everyone always joked around about how I always smiled and laughed, but you're right, at the end of the year I would divert myself to the front of the hauler so I didn't have to walk behind with everybody. I was scared of the questions that were gonna be asked or people would ask the same question about what's wrong. If I knew what was wrong, I would have went and tried to fix it. I didn't know what we needed to do, so the mental side of our sport is big and I don't think it gets acknowledged as much as what it needs to be. After my first year of being in the Busch Series, I think I only ran in the top 10 three times or something. I just had a really tough year. I had never really won a race. I hadn't done much. I sat on a couple of truck poles. I wasn't sure if I was gonna have a job, so I went and spoke with Clarence Brewer and when I left his office, I didn't feel that he knew if I was gonna have a job. So I ended up going to a school that would just kind of get your head screwed back on straight. If you have a negative thought to turn that around and make it a positive thought. I'm going back to that school just to kind of have a refresher course to make myself feel better and not necessarily to give you confidence, but just to help you not worry about everything that goes on because if all we really had to do was race, that's pretty easy. But it's dealing with the media and the bad questions or the negative questions and your sponsors and the pressure that comes along with that, it's hard to explain to somebody what that's like laying in bed at night and constantly worrying about everything. I don't deal with that very well and I know that, so I'm gonna go back and try to get to where I can think positive again and be happy. I tell you, it will make you happy as hell just to run well. If you run well, it seems like that goes away, but when you don't, it certainly drives you crazy."
IF YOU COULD TALK TO A FAN ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE DRIVING ON THIS TRACK, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY? "I don't think it would be as exciting here as what you would have at maybe Bristol or Darlington because you just don't feel like you're going fast here until you hit something. When you're in qualifying trim, it's not that it's boring, it's just the same thing over and over again, so it does kind of get boring. I don't know. I think in the race it would maybe be better here -- to let them experience what it's like with 40 cars surrounding you. It's a unique feeling, but I don't know. I think the speedway races are kind of like being on the interstate -- you catch somebody and you can't pass them because they won't get out of the way. I don't know, I think it's more frustrating than what it is fun sometimes here."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO JACK ABOUT LAST YEAR AND HIS EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS YEAR? "I've spoken with him a lot and actually at Loudon last year was where I went to Jack and told him that I needed something different, that I didn't think it was gonna work out with Bob. Everyone always wants to talk about the crew chief or just the driver and I didn't feel that Jimmy was the problem or that Bob was the problem, we just didn't have the right people in place and maybe just didn't have all of the right people to make our whole team work. So when I went to Jack, I told him I would like to make a crew chief change and I knew that when that happened that maybe we would get some new people at the same time. Jack told me he said, 'Look, I saw that there was a problem and I thought that it was Jimmy and I felt like if I gave you Bob and Bob could build the cars that Carl has, that that would work for you and it didn't. If anything it might have gotten worse by the end of the year.' He said, 'You need to go out and find who you think you're gonna work well with.' I don't remember exactly how he worded it, but something like, 'You need to kind of dig your own grave and then lay in it.' Like I say, the last 10 races I just put a list together of crew chiefs and I would go to Jack and speak with him. Jack and Max (Jones) left it up to me to make the initial phone calls and to go out and find the guy that I want and find somebody that I felt would fight for me and be on my side."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN PINPOINT IN LOOKING THROUGH DATA AS TO WHAT THE MAIN PROBLEM WAS LAST YEAR? "When the season started last year, I kind of told myself over the winter, 'Don't be stuck in what you've been doing for the last few years at the 42 car. Be open-minded and try what Roush has been trying because they've been so dominant.' Unfortunately, everyone knows after Matt won the first couple of races that what they were doing in the past, it wasn't as good as what was the new spring combinations. So I was a little bit torn with still trying to run what they had been running in the past and then you try to run what you hear everyone else is running because you're always trying to be better and we would kind of be stuck in between, which was not a good place to be. I have sat down and made numerous lists of the springs and the wedge and how much shock travel we had and to look at that and find things that were common and that probably frustrated you more than anything because about the time you would think you found something, you'd find somewhere else you ran similar setup and didn't run very well. So we ran a little bit better when we didn't have to coil-bind the front springs. I know everyone gets sick of hearing that, but that's the truth. It's odd that when you hit on that, it doesn't feel like you're hitting springs. The car doesn't get tight or it doesn't change. It drives well and it turns well and it sticks. Everything is there and when you get that a little bit off, it drives horrible. So with us and the changing of the crew chiefs and when Bob came over, he was still doing things the way they had been doing it the year before because that was still somewhat working for Carl and we were already trying to do the other way so there was a lot of confusion there. Part of the reason we ran so well at Dover is because we ran old style springs -- stuff that maybe ran four or five years ago -- and it seemed to work at Dover. It seemed to work well at a place like Dover or Bristol. Like I say, I don't want to say that we were confused, but we were a little bit because we were torn between whether you do what the guys have been doing in the past or whether you try to continue to make yourself better. There's not just one common thing that we missed each week. A few years ago when I think I ran in the top 10 like 23 or 25 times or something, we'd leave the race track and I would be like, 'Man, I can't believe we made that work.' When guys were running like 1500-pound right-rear springs, we were running 2,000-pound springs and people thought you were crazy and I kind of thought we were crazy, but it just seemed like it worked every week. You didn't have to be inside the box. You could kind of step out and maybe it didn't work great, but you could still salvage a top-10 finish. That's when things were all going well and when things aren't going well, it's like you get just a little bit out of the box and you're a lap down and you're junk. So we never really could pinpoint one thing, but we're pretty much starting from scratch this year. Everyone is gonna have all-new car of tomorrow's, and I think we saved maybe one downforce car from last year, which was new at the end of the year, but hung a complete new body on it. Then all of the other cars that we're building are all gonna be brand new. Since Larry wasn't there until January 2nd, we had to start building cars a month or so ago. I actually went to the 17 team and got a chassis built from them and then hung a body just like what they've been running, too. I didn't really know what to do, but I knew that the 17 had probably been the most consistent car of our group and Robbie and Chip and everybody have kind of opened up and willing to help. It's not that they wouldn't help in the past, it's that you weren't asking for the help at the right time, so they have certainly helped over the winter."
DO YOU HAVE A RELEASE AWAY FROM THE TRACK? "I used to go out in my garage and kind of mess with my shock dyno. That was something that I really enjoyed to do and I always kind of felt like that was something that maybe you could have an edge on everybody else, if you understood that a little bit better. I understand it really well now and it didn't seem to help a lot, but for me now I started getting up at 5:30 every morning and working out and running. It's hard when you're away from your house. When you go to the hotel gym and work out it's a little bit different, but I started getting up earlier in the morning and, I don't know, I felt like last year that I was always kind of on the technical side trying to make myself smarter and try to make it better that way and it didn't seem to work out as well as what I had thought, so this year I'm just gonna kind of dedicate myself to the physical and mental side of it and just try to make myself stronger as a person both physically and mentally."
HOW HARD IS IT TO DEAL WITH THE CREW CHIEF CHANGES? "When we made the first change from Jimmy to Bob, that wasn't really my decision. That was something that Jack felt was gonna be a step in the right direction. I never really got used to working with Jimmy or got to know him that well and then I had Bob. I got to know Bob well, but you just kind of know in the first couple of months. Everyone has met people that when you meet them and in the first five minutes they're very easy to talk to and you feel like there's a relationship there. Then you meet people that you feel like it's a challenge to have the conversation and you walk away and you just didn't feel like you both got it. Unfortunately with Bob, I never had that feeling. Then at the end of the year, everyone kind of said that Wally (Brown) was the crew chief, but in reality it was Chad Norris the car chief. I had already worked with Chad a lot and Chad was basically just car chiefing and crew chiefing at the same time. Fortunately, we ran really well at Phoenix. We ended up getting wrecked, but we ran well there. I don't know. It's hard. It's hard to go through all of that. I think as hard as it is on the driver, I think it's just as hard if not harder on all the crew guys trying to figure out who the leader is. All those guys, they need a leader and someone to point them in the right direction. Just like the driver, they need someone that they believe in and when you're going through crew chiefs that much, you kind of sense throughout the whole team that the guys just don't feel like there's any direction."
-credit: ford racing