Chevy Racing–Tuesday Teleconference–Jamie McMurray

JENNIE LONG:  Good morning.  Joining us today is Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  Jamie heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend where he made his first career start and has two wins and seven top‑10 finishes.  Jamie, your win at Talladega last October was the first time your son and daughter were with you in victory lane.  Can you talk about what that moment was like, having them there for the celebration?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Yeah, I’m going to start with apologizing for any background noise because I am home alone right now with both of them, so this could be really interesting in the next 15 minutes if they get too wild on me.
It was obviously really special for me to have both of them there.  I think I said in the media center, I’ve seen pictures for years of Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth and all the guys that I’ve been friends with, had pictures with their families in victory lane, and it was just a really special day.  That was a great picture, one that I’ll always cherish.
Q.  First of all, what are the ages of your children?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  One and three.
Q.  Speaking of family, what’s Mother’s Day weekend going to be like for you in Kansas next week?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, it’s different because normally we’ve had mother’s day at Darlington, and all of my family lives here now.  I think that my mom is going to try to go back with me this year.  It’s been easier in the past because you would just ‑‑ we kind of planned it out where she and I would just drive down together, so that was always really nice.  And then after having kids, it’s special because you’re spending that with your mom and then also your wife who is a mother.  That day becomes much more important.
But this year I think my mom is going to actually fly back with me and I think she’s going to hang out with her friends a little bit in Joplin and then come back up to the race in Kansas.
Yeah, it’ll be really special.  It’s become more and more important to me the older that I get, and after having kids you just realize everything that your mom has given up and how much work they put into raising you.  It becomes more special every year.
Q.  What impact did your mom have on your career coming up as a driver?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, I think when I look at my parents, my parents were quite a bit different.  My dad was fairly loud and outspoken, and my mom was very reserved.  But I learned a lot from both of them, and when I look back to my mom, I think some of the values she taught me was, first off, how important getting an education was.  She was a schoolteacher.  And then also my mom was just always really conservative and really good at saving money and not wasting things, and that has rubbed off on me, and I’ve kind of been that way my whole life.  That’s from her and listening to her and just kind of doing what she did when she was raising us. I learned really good stuff from her.
Q.  What do you credit your success at Talladega over the other tracks on the circuit?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  That’s a really tough question.  I don’t really view Talladega or Daytona any different than any other track.  I think to be successful at a plate track, you have to be ‑‑ I don’t know that you go there with the mindset of winning.  I always go to plate tracks with the mindset of running second and pushing somebody to the win, and if the circumstances work out that you find yourself in the lead, it’s great.  But I don’t think you can be ‑‑ I think you just have to be very open‑minded and willing to help more than trying to get help.  I think a lot of guys go to those tracks and want everyone to help them, but they don’t really want to return the favor, and I think it’s important to kind of have a different mentality with that, and you always want to try to help whoever is in front of you and work with them.
I don’t know.  It’s definitely a different style of racing than what we normally have.  I have to tell you that I’m so thankful that we’ve gotten rid of the tandem.  I hated that.  I know some fans liked it and some didn’t, but for me I dreaded going to the plate tracks when we had the tandem.  I like the package that we have now.
Q.  What’s your favorite track?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  My favorite track is the one that we go to next every week.  I honestly, like if you have a good car at any of the tracks, they’re fun, and if your car is not good, none of them are fun.  I really enjoy getting to go do some road course racing, I like Martinsville, I like Charlotte.  I enjoy going to Daytona and Talladega.  That’s fun to do four times a year, but it’s nice to go somewhere different each week.
Q.  We’re close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  What do you think of that track?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, Indy is fun because of the history.  I wouldn’t say that Indy is in the top 5 of the funnest tracks to race on because it’s so hard to pass there.  But it’s a really special place just because of the history of it, and after winning that race and getting to kiss the bricks, it makes it even more special to me.
Q.  Jamie, the new elimination system stresses winning probably by plan and seems to be working pretty well, too.  But it may benefit drivers like you who are no strangers to victory lane from time to time.  How does that change the mindset of you and your team and other drivers, too, looking into how you approach this year?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Yeah, I don’t think anyone is doing anything any differently.  I mean, if it comes down at Richmond last week or Talladega this week and you take a gamble on fuel mileage, everyone is going to do the same thing.  I think the mentality has changed that everyone races to win every week, and I don’t think that what they’ve done this year has made anyone try harder or do anything different because you only can race based on the circumstances that are given for that event, and it’s really ‑‑ you’d have to ask a crew chief, but in my opinion it’s not any different than it’s ever been.
Q.  I’m curious, can you talk a little bit about what your first impression was of Talladega when you first went to the track and when that was?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, Talladega was the first Superspeedway race that I even ‑‑ well, I guess I ran Daytona, but I think I tested at Talladega first, and I just remember going there and knowing that you could run wide open around the track, and I had never been to a track that you could do that at.  It’s so hard to get used to, whether it was in the late models or doing the trucks, that you can run around the track and not ever let off.  It’s hard to conceive that.
The first laps were ‑‑ it’s so much fun to be able to run around a place like that flat out and not have to let off.  It’s different now because it’s got so much more grip than what it had before the repave.  When we did the plate races before, you could run like 15 laps and handling started becoming an issue, and now there’s so much grip that it’s a little bit different.  That’s a thrilling place to go to for the first time, and to run around there by yourself is exciting initially, but then when you run around and you’re in the middle of a 30‑ or a 40‑car pack and you’re right in the middle lane, middle of the pack, that gets your attention, and it certainly requires a lot of focus.  It’s a really cool place, really fun venue.
Q.  What went through your mind the first time you took a lap around there, and do you remember when that was?
  Well, no and no.  I don’t remember that.  And I don’t remember exactly when it was.  I could be wrong, it might have been in the truck at Daytona the first time I ran a plate track or somewhere that you could run wide open.  But it’s just hard to conceive that you could do that and that it would stick good enough.  It takes a while to realize that, that it’s real.
Q.  I’m just going to ask you about what happened with Ambrose and Mears after Richmond.  Are you surprised that they got fined and the punishment was what it was or do you think NASCAR should have just let it go?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, I hoped that NASCAR would just let that go.  They have preached to all of us that they want us to be who we are, and I think it’s good that you have some characters in the sport that ‑‑ I’m not calling Casey or Marcus out, but not everyone is willing to ‑‑ or is the type of guy that would punch someone, right?  Everyone has a moment that they’re extremely upset, but I don’t think that ‑‑ I think you can count on one hand the guys that would actually throw a punch.  Everyone is talking about it.  I’m building a house, and when I got up to the home site, that’s all the guys wanted to talk about was oh, my gosh, did you see that, and they wanted to know if I have any inside scoop.  I think it’s great.  I don’t want to see anyone get punched, but it’s been ‑‑ how many years ago has it been since someone actually punched someone?  It’s got everyone talking about the sport and I think it’s good you see those guys’ passion.  Casey was so mad when you look in that video there and kind of pushing Marcos.  I don’t know, I was really hoping that NASCAR was going to let it go or that the fines would be less because that’s a huge ‑‑ $25,000 is massive.  My opinion of that is that you won’t see it happen again because I think people will think about that and be like, it’s not worth it.  It’s not worth $25,000 for me to express exactly how I feel at this time.
Q.  There must have been situations where you’ve been in that same situation and have held back.  Have you been in those type of situations, as well?  Have there been any times you’ve thrown a punch or have wanted to but have held back?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, there’s probably been times, yeah, when I wanted to do that.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had that kind of anger inside of me.  But you know, I don’t know.  My take on that is I kind of ‑‑ if it was happening every week, I think it would be different, but if they hadn’t fined those guys, I don’t think it would have happened again for a long time.  Like I say, I think there’s only a few guys ‑‑ I think there’s maybe five guys that are willing to do that, and it takes both those guys getting together on the same night and being extremely upset before it would happen.  I don’t think it was ‑‑ I think if they would have let it go, I don’t think it would have happened again for a while.  I think it’s very circumstantial with the two right guys, you know.
And look, I think if you watch the video of that, my take on it, I don’t think Casey had any intentions of throwing a punch.  Casey went over there and was wanting to get his point across.  I don’t think he had any ‑‑ when he got hit, you could tell he was like, I can’t believe I just got punched, right?  I don’t think anyone had that mindset going into it.
Q.  Racing is a tough sport that is built up with a lot of emotion.  Now that you have children, has your thought process changed?  In other words, how do you keep the children out of your mind when you get into that race car compared to when you were not a daddy?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Yeah, honestly that never crosses my mind.  I don’t know that ‑‑ I think if you polled most guys, they would say that that doesn’t ‑‑ once you get out, whether it’s in practice or qualifying or when the National Anthem is going on for the race, once you get in the car, it’s all about racing, and you just do what feels natural.  I mean, I don’t know that anybody necessarily when they’re racing thinks about, well, I have kids now or I’m married.  You do what happens naturally, and you make decisions really fast, and it’s just based on what you feel at that time. For me it’s not any different.  I think if you were to ask most guys, they would say that.
Q.  Coming up on the midway point of the season, so to speak, what’s your assessment for the first half, and then what’s the outlook for the remainder of the season?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Well, I mean, our cars have been tremendously better.  It’s been somewhat unfortunate that some of the races that we had really got cars ‑‑ when I looked at Bristol with 50 laps to go and the 4 car losing an oil line in front of us, Martinsville with the 88 cutting a tire down and crashing in front of us.  We’ve had really good cars at every race.  Keith Rodden has done a great job coming over and being the crew chief this year, his first year of crew chiefing.  Team and organization‑wise has been really good, and I think both Kyle and I are looking forward really to about everywhere we’re going.  I love road course racing.  We’re getting ready to go do some testing for that on Monday, and we’ve just been good at each type of racetrack, whether it’s flat track, high banked, short track, mile‑and‑a‑half.  Our cars have been good about everywhere, so that’s a great feeling to have in this sport because sometimes you have cars that are good at short tracks but not good at mile‑and‑a‑halfs, so you dread those mile‑and‑a‑half tracks because you know you’ve struggled with those.  We’ve been good about everywhere, so yeah, really optimistic about everything for the rest of the year.
Q.  It’s coming down pretty well up here in upstate New York.  What’s the weather been like down there this week and how has it effected you at all?
JAMIE McMURRAY:  Yeah, the weather ‑‑ I’m actually going to Talladega a little early for a fishing trip, so I’ve been watching the weather closer this weekend than I have in the past.  But it looks like all the weather is going to be out of there today, and we’re going to have a great weekend.
JENNIE LONG:  Jamie, thanks so much for joining us today, and good luck this weekend at Talladega.