Jamie McMurray Press Conference Transcript

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES 2011 DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT February 16, 2011  

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed two-car draft, rule changes that have been made, value of spotter, the exchange of two cars and other topics. Full transcript:  

TELL US HOW YOUR WEEK HAS BEEN SO FAR AND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IN THE UPCOMING RACES: “It has been a good week. I was happy with how our car performed in the Bud Shootout. They’ve changed the rules a little bit, but I was talking to Steve Hmiel (Director of Competition for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing), I don’t think it is going to be dramatically different for our team than what we had in the Shootout. The opening in nose is very similar to the same size. I think that the point that the water is going to boil is going to fairly close to what we raced. I don’t think there are going to be a lot of changes; I think the biggest obstacle is going to be the temperature on Thursday and again on Sunday versus what we had in the Shootout. We’ll go out today and practice and see what we have. It is a different car and it is really strange how you know some cars suck up well and want to push and some that don’t, so we’ll have to wait and see how today’s car is.”  

HOW MUCH MORE ARE YOU RELYING ON YOUR SPOTTER HERE WHEN YOU ARE THE TRAILING CAR IN THE TWO-CAR DRAFTS? “It is more than ever and I think that your spotter has to be a racer in order to anticipate what the lead car is going to do. I thought, Loren Ranier spots for me, I always said that what made him a great spotter is that he can stand up there and watch the race unfold and he’s really good at reading other drivers and kind of knowing what to anticipate. He did a great job Saturday night. It was our first race back together since being at Roush and it took the first 25 laps to get used to it, and then I felt like once I got hooked up with Kurt (Busch), he did a really good job at anticipating what he thought Kurt would do and where he would go. When you are locked together, if you are on the bottom of the track and he says ‘I think Kurt is going to pass them on the outside’, as soon as he would say that, I would move my front bumper to the right rear of Kurt’s car so that when Kurt made the move, I was centered up with him. That is important because when you watch it on TV and you see the cars zigging and zagging back and forth, if you misjudge that, it will be a wreck. I think the spotters are more important with the two-car drafts than at any other time.”  

TEAMS ARE REPORTED TO HAVE SPENT LARGE SUMS OF MONEY ON RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF COOLING SYSTEMS, HOW DRAMATICALLY DO YOU THINK YOUR CAR IS GOING TO REACT TO EACH OF THE CHANGES NASCAR IS MAKING IS IT A MOVING TARGET? “I’ve heard the numbers that different teams have spent on cooling and I didn’t hear any of our guys say anything about that that we had spent a lot of money on oil coolers or radiators any more than we would for next week at Phoenix or Vegas. I thought my car cooled really well. I won’t say that it was wasted money, but I didn’t have any issues. I pushed Kurt for 20 laps and didn’t have any cooling problems. I don’t know. Maybe there is more to that than what I understand for what they spent. But I know that the separate oil coolers they had mounted in the nose, we didn’t have any of that and didn’t have any cooling issues. It is funny how we will spend a lot of money for a really really small gain but I don’t know that there was a lot to gain by the separate oil cooler that they mounted in the nose. As far as working together with other guys, it was really strange how, it wasn’t really that I couldn’t work with Juan (Pablo Montoya), it was that when my car got behind Juan’s the deflection and wind shift was huge and didn’t have that when I got behind Kurt. I don’t know why and maybe this next car of Juan’s won’t be that way. We’ll get out there today and draft together and see how that works. It will be a little different if we can’t stay locked together for multiple laps. I don’t think you will necessarily pick just one guy to work with the whole race. It will be kind of who you can pick up at the right time unless we are able to do the exchange like what we’ve been seeing. I think you will see a lot of that today, whether it is with Juan and I or the different organizations. I think you’ll see the guys get together and see how many laps they can push for. See how long the car will go before it loses water and then how fast you can do that exchange.  It will be similar for what we had for the Shootout but it is going to be a little bit different because the length of time together is not going to be as long.”  

THERE IS TALK ABOUT EVEN MORE CHANGES, MAYBE EVEN RIGHT UP UNTIL SATURDAY OR SUNDAY, DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT THE RULES KEEP CHANGING, THAT THE TARGET KEEPS MOVING AND DO YOU THINK THAT IT IS A GOOD THING OR DOES IT IMPACT THE RACE IN A GOOD WAY OR NEGATIVE WAY? “It doesn’t bother me at all because the reason they are making the changes is first off hopefully to make the racing a little bit better where you don’t just have…I don’t think the racing in the Shootout was bad by any means, the word that I kept hearing was weird and that was the way I described it. It was weird because it wasn’t the same racing that we have had at Daytona and Talladega for the last 10 years. I think that we had had that kind of racing for the last 10 years and then we had a 43-car pack, like what we are used to, then everybody would have said that was weird. They are trying to slow the cars down a little bit to keep everyone safe. Not just the drivers, but the spectators in the stands and make sure they keep the car on the ground. If they decide to put a smaller plate on, I don’t think you are going to hear one driver complain about that because it isn’t going to affect the racing. You really can’t tell in the car 10 or 15 mph. when everyone is moving the same speed, it is all relevant to the guys around you. Really the cars need to go a little bit slower because the rpm range is so high, I heard the motor builders saying that this was going to be the hardest track, period, on engines because it is 9,000 rpms all the way around the track and never lets up.  So if they can slow the cars down a little bit and you can get the rpm range down; that is going to be better for everyone. I noticed in Bud Shootout practice, in the first practice you had cars get locked together and they could only run 201 mph, maybe 202. Then in the second practice when they got locked together, it was higher. I don’t think you are going to see those same speeds with this plate because it is going to be hotter today and the cars just don’t seem to go as fast in the daytime as they do at night. I think the reason NASCAR is taking small steps is because they don’t need a lot to get the speeds back down where they need to be. In the last couple of days, I have spoken with a lot of drivers and nobody seems to really be even a little bit upset or concerned with the changes they have made, I think everybody is for it.”  

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MENTAL CHALLENGE OF RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING AS OPPOSED TO OTHER TYPES OF RACING AND THE VARIABLES YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU ARE OUT THERE IN THE DRAFT LIKE THAT?  “It gets worse every year. Coming down here, when we added the trying to get locked together and push a guy for multiple laps, it becomes harder and harder. It seems like the drivers and the teams get smarter every year and they seem to figure out another little trick of a way to draft or the cars with the cooling so the cars could be locked together. It is just going to keep evolving because I really don’t think this race track is going to lose grip. I think that for the next 10 years, we are going to be able to run wide open with two cars locked together around here. Goodyear has a really hard tire here and the wear is great on it and the way that the asphalt is now, it just doesn’t deteriorate like what it was 15 years ago when they paved race tracks. If you look at Darlington or Talladega, the tracks that they paved recently, it just doesn’t wear out like it used to and the grip level is so high here that I think what we are seeing for plate racing now is what we are going to see for years to come. Hopefully it will not be weird when people become accustomed to seeing this kind of racing. I don’t think it is that. The Shootout was strange because we weren’t used to it, but it was actually fun to push a guy by two other guys that were locked together and I think when we get 40 cars on the track it will be even that much better. The only guy that didn’t like it was (Matt) Kenseth when he didn’t have anyone to push. But hopefully when we get 40-some cars on the track, it will be different.”  

THEY SAY OUR DRIVERS ARE THE BEST DRIVERS IN THE WORLD AND WON’T BE CONCERNED ABOUT ALL THESE CHANGES, CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW HARD IT IS FOR THE DRIVERS TO ADAPT TO THIS SO IT ISN’T MADE MORE OF THAN IT REALLY IS? “I remember when we came down here for the Goodyear test, we ran in packs of like 20-some cars and we would push down the straightaways and then when we would get to the corner, everybody was getting off the guys they were pushing because you’ve never been able to do that around Daytona. I think for the most part, even at Talladega it seems kind of hairy and the corners are so much bigger around there, that I don’t know that any of us actually felt we were going to be able to do that here. Then, once the first guy did it and everybody saw that, then it was just normal. Once you do it for one lap, not that it is easy, because it is still kind of a handful to hang on to the car. It is easy to push; it is hard to be pushed. I don’t know, once you get used to it, it is what it is. Everybody is looking for that little bit of an advantage. It think back to the first Talladega race after they paved it, if you could have figured out how to lock together and do what we did here in the Bud Shootout, You could have lapped the field getting locked together like that. But, nobody knew about it then; nobody thought it was actually possible. You just have to stay up with the times and you learn as you go. It is amazing to me how much it has changed in just the last two years with the paving of the tracks; just how different plate racing is now than what it was three or four years ago.”  

NASCAR SAID WITH THE FIRST CHANGES ANNOUCED THAT 206 MPH WAS A LITTLE TOO FAST AND THEY DIDN’T WANT TO SEE THE PROLONGED HOOKUPS, IF WHAT HAVE PUT INTO EFFECT WORKS AND CAUSES PEOPLE TO SEPARATE A LOT QUICKER, IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WILL DISCOURAGE THE TWO-CAR HOOKUP ENTIRELY? “No, not at all because you can just go so much quicker when you get hooked up. I think what you guys will see is guys practicing that exchange enough that we will get it down where you can exchange in one corner and not lose much time. Juan and I only practiced it 10 times and the 10th time was really good. I think when we get in the race and guys get used to it, I think we will be able to get the swap down so it happens really fast. You just do it. The issue with the exchange will be the other factors on the track. Whether it is a single car on the bottom of the track. I know in the Shootout, there were a couple of guys that didn’t have a partner and we lapped them. When you catch those cars, it really messes up if you have to do the exchange in that corner, that makes it harder. Or, if you have to do the exchange when someone else is doing it in the same corner, that is where the mistakes will be made. I think by the end of today, guys are going to be able to do that exchange a lot faster than they were.  I think it is about one second a lap to do the exchange, but I don’t know honestly. But Juan and I did one of them, actually by accident the other day and it was kind of seamless. It just happened really fast and I couldn’t believe how quickly we got hooked back up. The guys haven’t done it very much and I think once we do it more you will be shocked about how fast we will be able to get hooked up.”  

WHAT IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT EXACTLY IS THE YELLOW LINE RULE? “I went to NASCAR after; I talked to (John) Darby and (Mike) Helton about what happened to Denny Hamlin. First off, I watched the replay of that and Denny was far enough up the side of Ryan (Newman) that he really didn’t have to go below the yellow line. I think he could have held his ground. I don’t know if there would have been a wreck there. I think Ryan would have depended on whether there was going to be a wreck or not. But, my perspective is if I am Ryan, you know far up alongside that guy is. You have mirrors and guys are really good at judging that and think Ryan knew that he was far enough alongside that he wasn’t going to be able to push him down. But, I think that Denny felt like I was far enough beside him that I’m just, I don’t know this, I haven’t talked to Denny, but watching it, it looked to me he felt like I am going to go ahead and go down here because I am far enough alongside him, they can tell I wasn’t forced down and this way I just don’t cause a wreck. I think he (Denny) thought he was still going to win the race, he just wasn’t going to cause the wreck. I asked NASCAR…I was like ‘I see his side of that. Why cause a wreck if you don’t have to. Why would you guys not just put Denny back to where he was, whether it was second or fourth or where ever that would be. Why penalized him all the way back to a car on the lead lap?’ Because to me, when they do that, I said that promotes the guy to go ahead and wreck them. If you are only going to lose one spot, then you are like I’ll just lose one spot. And Darby said, it would have worked just fine on Saturday night because you could clearly see that he was only going to lose one spot or two spots. He said if we have a green-white-checkered and there’s 30-some cars come across at the same time, where do you put him at then. I said ‘I see your point’. He said ‘All you have to do if you get in that position for Denny if he felt like he was in the wrong, is just let off before you get to start/finish line and let Ryan go and you’ll only lose that one spot.’ I don’t know, I think if it comes down to the Daytona 500, that first off no one is going to go below the yellow line because they have made that very clear that you can’t. I think you’ll see the wreck. Either that, if you are Ryan, then you know the guy is far enough up beside you, you just have to hope and side draft him to the line. But, when Jeff (Burton) said the yellow line rule was the greatest rule, I agree 100% and I look back at some of the old footage when they could go below the yellow line and they were in the grass and that just seems crazy to me that we ever did that. The yellow line rule, it is your friend. If you come off turn two you put your left front on the yellow line, you don’t have to guard that side. Just look out the right side. I think it is great. I don’t think that rule should not be in effect on the last lap because you are just going to be in the dirt. It is going to be the same thing, it is just going to be six foot lower and there is plenty of room to the right to race anyway. So, I think the rules are just fine on all that. After talking to Darby about what do you do when you are in that position, because all the drivers think they understand the rules, but you really don’t until you ask and thoroughly understand it. I think it is fine.”  

DENNY SAID THE OTHER DAY ABOUT THOSE LAST LAPS (BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT), HE SAID JAMIE KNEW HIS CHANCES AND HE WASN’T GOING TO WIN AND HE COMMITTED TO PUSHING KURT THE WHOLE TIME? IS THAT ACCURATE? “100%. When we got hooked up in our four-car draft and we could see we were starting to get away from the second pack, I came on the radio and said, let’s just stay together, let’s just stay right here and get away because the cars that were in sixth or eighth were getting such a run if they could get any draft off of us, you had no chance of defending them. I knew if it came down to if we were in sixth and eighth, we weren’t going to be able to win the race. So, really in order for me to win, Kurt had to pull out like off of turn two and get besides Denny and Ryan and then when we came to the line, we could all fan out. But once we went into turn three and we weren’t beside them, yes, I thought my best chance is to run second right now and that was what I was committed to. You come off of turn four, honestly I don’t know if Denny hadn’t pulled out of Ryan if we would have ever  got up beside him because Kurt’s car just wasn’t fast enough to beside Denny, so yes, absolutely we came off of turn four I just pushed Kurt as far as I could. It is really no different than the way it was last year or five years ago. If you are fourth coming off the last corner you don’t have a chance to win. Unless the wreck or they all go below the yellow line, it is really not any different. I like the way it was. Because if Kurt had pulled out on the backstretch and was able to get beside him, then you would have seen four cars at the start/finish line all side-by-side and it would have really been a close race because it is really easy when you are behind the guy just to get beside him, but then you get this whole side draft going on. If Kurt could have gotten along side of him earlier, it would have been even more exciting.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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