JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS, WAS THE GUEST OF THIS WEEK’S NASCAR TELECONFERENCE.
BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Joining us today is Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jamie looks for his first win of the regular season ‑‑ and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup spot that would go with it ‑‑ in Sunday’s Oral‑B 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Jamie, thanks for joining us today.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thanks for having me.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie, you’ve been very successful at Atlanta in the Nationwide Series with two wins, two top five, and four top ten finishes. What will it take this weekend to capture a win on the Cup side and earn a spot in the Chase field?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I feel like our cars have been really good at the mile and a half, all of them this year. That’s a little bit of a unique track because we only go there once a year. It certainly is ‑‑ has the most fall‑off of any track we go to as far as the tires go.
So it’s just like anywhere else. It will be like being in the right position after the last pit stop and hoping everything falls your way.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Jamie.
We’ll now go to the media for questions.
Q. Good morning, Jamie. I’m sure you’re getting asked this question a lot. With two races to go and you’re trying to make the Chase, how do you handle the stress of this? You seem like a pretty even keel guy, but are you lying awake nights thinking about it, or can you put it out of your mind?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, I mean ‑‑ gosh, I’d love to make it more dramatic than it is. I don’t ‑‑ you race every single week to win, and it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for a spot to get in the Chase or whether you’re just in the Chase and you compete for the Championship.
I mean, you just race everything single week to win. So even though we’re down to two races, it’s really not any different than it was at the Daytona 500, the first race of the year. The goal is the same every week. You can’t really do anything different just because we’re down to two races.
So, yeah, it’s just a regular weekend, and you go, and you perform your best.
Q. Hey, Jamie, how are you?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I’m good. Good to hear from you.
Q. Good to be heard from.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah.
Q. My question is actually kind of along those lines. I was curious if you’re noticing a difference in the garage area and, you know, race day from your competitors from the teams. Is there a real palpable feeling of things getting ramped up here with a couple races to decide the Chase field?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I haven’t noticed a difference. I think everyone right now is so busy with testing that’s going on that I feel like most of the guys are pretty tired when they get to the track.
We tested Chicago the last two days, and after getting home from Bristol at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and then getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go to Chicago and test for two days, I think most of the people that are on that plan, we’re all worn out by the time we even get to Atlanta.
So I don’t know if you have time really to worry about anything or have a different vibe. I think the Hendrick cars were at Martinsville this week. I think most of the garage is really busy, and you don’t have time to think about what’s going on. You’re just racing and testing and doing everything that goes along with that.
Q. Thank you. If I could just real quick follow up. Do you feel like you guys are in a pretty good groove? To us, it looks as if you are. Do you feel more optimistic than not?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, not ‑‑ I feel like really since, even before winning the All‑Star race, that we’ve had great cars. We tend to run better than where we’ve finished. I feel like after the last pit stop, we haven’t ‑‑ somehow the car hasn’t went the way we needed it to.
At the beginning of the year, it was kind of the opposite. It seems like, at the end of the race, we finished better than what we raced. We’ve just raced so well and haven’t been able to put it together after that last pit stop. In Bristol, it probably showed more the most because we had such a good car.
If we can just put a whole weekend together and be able to finish off as well as or better than we ran throughout the race, yeah, I feel like the next two races should be really good for us. I hope we’re able to put it all together in one of those.
Q. My question to you is with two races to go and with Chip Ganassi Racing seems to be doing really well with you and Kyle Larson both, what advantage would it be if you were both to make it into the Chase? And if you yourself were to make it into the Chase, what’s the biggest thing you need to work on to win the Championship?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I don’t know how to answer the first question. I would say the key for us, if you make it into the Chase, is similar to like what I was saying to Holly. It’s about the guys that tend to finish well in the points and make the Chase every year are guys that finish better than where they run through the majority of the race.
They put together that last segment, and they’re able to get the two or three more points each race better than what their average running position was. I think that’s ultimately what we have to work on is just putting it all together at the end and making sure that, if you run 10th all day, that you finish 7th, or if you run 15th all day, you finish 11th or 12th. It’s really just about closing the deal out and getting more out of it than maybe what you had all day.
Q. If there was one track coming up that you feel like you have an advantage over the others, which one would that be?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I really enjoy ‑‑ when you say a track, do you mean between now and like ‑‑ are you referring to Atlanta and Richmond, or do you mean all of them?
Q. I would say between Atlanta and Richmond.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I feel really good at both of those. Those tracks are both somewhat unique because the tire fall‑off is so big that strategy comes into play. If you get a long green flag run, guy that short pits has a big advantage. And it seems like, at both of those places, we always get a caution with less than five laps to go.
And then it always comes down to two tires, stay out, no tires, kind of ‑‑ so I think we’ll run well at both of those. It will be just about things falling your way or working out an advantage for you at the end.
Q. With the Hendrick horsepower, do you feel like this week will be a little better chance for you to get a win than maybe Richmond?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, obviously, the Hendrick engines are the best right now, but Atlanta is such big handling. I would say the power comes more into play in qualifying than what it will in the race. You spend so much of the race in Atlanta sliding around that I think a good handling car will overcome horsepower.
I think, if you could pick one or the other, you would take the car that handles really well versus the car with the most power. I don’t know that the engines, once we get through qualifying, are going to be as big of an advantage as what they are at a place like Michigan or Charlotte, tracks that you can use a lot of throttle throughout the run.
Q. And have you gotten any kind of vibe from your teammate on how that team is doing? They’ve had a rough couple of weeks. Do you get a feeling they’re kind of ‑‑ they’re so much kind of in the position to make the Chase, and now they’re on the outside looking in?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don’t think the vibe’s any different. Listen, this is hard, and part of what makes our sport so tough is that you have so many ups and downs.
The key to doing well is to not be too high when things are going well and not get too low when things aren’t going well. I think for Kyle he’s just ‑‑ he’s raced a lot of races throughout the year in Sprint cars, but there’s so many ups and downs with this, and I think he’s done a really good job at not beating himself up too bad when a tire blows out or he made a mistake and not being too excited when he does well.
I sent him a text right after the Michigan race, when they blew the tire out, and like, you know, there’s nothing you can do about it. Keep your head up. It’s all going to be fine, just because I didn’t want him to get down when something that was out of his control happened.
Q. Jamie, people have talked about strategy ‑‑ crew chiefs need to be even more and more aggressive, or in some cases, more and more aggressive than what they have been in the past. When you’re in the car in the race, is it easy to keep up with what’s going on? Or are there times you kind of wonder why is Keith making this call? And later you find out why it happened or why it didn’t happen. How tough is it to keep up with the different things along with everything else you’ve got to keep up with inside the car?
JAMIE McMURRAY: It’s sometimes really easy to keep up, and there’s other times that it doesn’t make any sense, and they justify it to you afterwards, and then it adds up to you. It’s really hard when you’re in the car, most of the time, I think, to comprehend what everybody else is doing.
It’s probably easier at a place like Atlanta or Richmond because you know how valuable tires are, and typically you don’t see people stay out. Like if they do, it only takes a few laps for them to fall back. So I think it’s a little easier, like the next two races.
Places like Michigan or Pocono, where you have guys on completely different strategies, it’s really hard to keep up with there. That’s when I think you have to put a lot of faith in the guy that’s leading the team and let him make those decisions.
Q. And just how your Chicago test came out and just what kind of stood out to you? Obviously, that was a test where a lot of teams were there. So you, in one sense, got to compare yourself to some other people even though you don’t always know what everybody’s plan is.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I thought ‑‑ did you ask about the Chicago test?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I thought that both the 1 and the 42 had a really good test. That track is a lot more abrasive than some of the other mile‑and‑a‑halfs. It’s not as bad as Atlanta, but I thought it was a great place to go test just before Atlanta. I thought we learned some stuff that we’ll apply to this weekend.
And there were a lot of teams there ‑‑ all the Roush, Stuart Haas, Michael Waltrip. And there was a lot of cars there, so they put a little rubber down. And we had a little bit of everything with rain multiple times and then also just incredibly hot temperatures. So you kind of got to see everything the track was going to do.
And it was ‑‑ you know, it’s good, I felt like, to have the 4 car there. He’s been ‑‑ you know, I would say, if you had to pick a car all year long that’s been the fastest raw speed, the 4 car’s been that guy. So it was nice to kind of have a baseline to know what’s probably going to be fast when you go back.
So I thought we had a really good test.
Q. Jamie, the way things keep changing with modern technology, even since you started racing, it seems like a driver today now almost has to have a degree in engineering so you know what the heck your crew chief is talking about. What’s your feelings on that?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I guess it depends on what you’re ‑‑ like, if you’re referring to the simulation, there’s been some guys I feel like have done a better job of keeping up with that than others, and I think a lot of you keeping up with it doesn’t really have to do with your intelligence as much as your want‑to.
There’s some drivers that are very curious, and I’m one of those guys, and you kind of want to know an answer to everything and how something works. There’s other guys that don’t care, and they just drive the car and tell the crew chief what it’s doing.
So it’s amazing how far it’s come along, though. The simulation, to me, has really been the biggest helper that we’ve had. It’s amazing that they can ‑‑ the stuff ‑‑ the parts they can change on the car and make it faster without the car ever being on the racetrack. It’s pretty fascinating how far all that’s moved along. That’s probably been the biggest thing.
Q. Thank you and good luck this weekend. Pick a win up for your kids.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yes, sir, thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie, thank you so much for joining us today. Good luck this weekend in Atlanta.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thanks. Have a great day. Appreciate it.