In the midst of the Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR postseason, sometimes it’s easy to forget about those drivers who aren’t in the Chase. One such non-Chaser is Jamie McMurray. This weekend, McMurray, a native of Joplin, Mo., will be racing at what he considers to be his home track — Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
McMurray leads the way among non-Chasers, as he heads into Kansas 14th in the points standings. He starts Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway from the 23rd spot. On Friday, McMurray spoke to the media about racing at Kansas, his role at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and the new teammate he’ll be getting in 2014 in Kyle Larson, among other things. Here’s what he had to say:
TALK ABOUT BEING IN KANSAS THIS WEEKEND:
“It’s always fun to come back here. My mom and dad actually flew out here with me this weekend. My mom has been down in Joplin with some of her friends. My dad and I, we actually went fishing over at Bass Pro Shops farm over in Calhoun, Missouri the last couple of days and then I think he’s maybe off to the go-kart races today in Topeka. It’s been a really fun weekend so far and it’s certainly nice to have my family with me.”
WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL LOOK FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK AFTER YESTERDAY’S TEST SESSION?:
“I did the tire test at Atlanta, which used the multi-compound tire. I did the tire test at Phoenix, same thing and then obviously yesterday. The balance of the car is a little bit tighter and seems to have a little less grip with this tire, but I think the one thing that we’ve noticed is that camber doesn’t seem to be as sensitive and I say that in that most of the time we come to these fast tracks and the more camber you can run, the faster you can go. At the same time, the more you run the bigger threat you have of blowing the tire out. There’s a fine line of how much you want to run versus the speed versus the risk. This tire doesn’t seem to be sensitive.
“We did fairly large sweeps yesterday and didn’t see a big speed difference from having a lot of camber and we were doing large, large adjustments. I think that’s good in that it’s a safer tire than what we’ve had in the past and I think when you put that responsibility in the teams’ hands of more camber will go quicker then that’s what we’re all going to do and try to figure out a way of cooling the tire better or making it live. You try to do something. I think that’s good and I think that’s probably the future of our sport is to have this. Just all around, I don’t see any issue with it. It’s a little bit slower, but it’s the same for everybody.”
IS THERE A REASON WHY YOU ARE COMPETITIVE IN CHASE RACES, BUT NOT IN THE CHASE?:
“No, I don’t know I just give the same effort every week and I don’t know if there’s some guys that get deflated when they don’t make the Chase and it seems like maybe some of those teams start trying other off the wall ideas because they’re not in the Chase. I look at this year for most of the teams, there’s not really anything to gain by doing things off the wall because the rules are going to change so much next year with the ground zero car and not having the ride height rules afterwards that I don’t really see a big advantage in experimenting because until we get to test that car in the off season and we find out exactly what the rules are, I think for the rest of the year you just do what works best, but I can’t give you a reason. It sure does seem odd that we’ve been a really good car not in the Chase.”
DOES YOUR RECENT SUCCESS JUSTIFY YOUR ROLE AS A LEADER WITH THE TEAM HEADING INTO NEXT YEAR?:
“Racing goes in streaks and it seems that you get on a streak and everything you do works and then you get to have the opposite as well where the stuff that’s always worked in the past doesn’t. Right now we just have had a few really good races and our cars have been good. I feel like our mile-and-a-half program has been good so I expect to run well this weekend. As far as Kyle (Larson) coming in and Juan (Pablo Montoya) leaving, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to that because until Juan’s out of that car and you start working with Kyle every week, it’s not any different right now for us. Kyle did a test at Charlotte and I think he had a really good test there.
“Like I said earlier about the setup stuff, what we’re learning right now I don’t think is going to apply to next year as much as it would if the rules were staying the same. Just kind of is what it is.”
WILL IT BE DIFFERENT NEXT YEAR?:
“I think it will be different for our whole organization next year. I think the meetings will be different. I think we’re going to have more meetings with the teams and the drivers and they’re structuring that right now trying to get everything setup and get a little more organized for next season.”
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO WORKING WITH KYLE LARSON?:
“Absolutely. Kyle (Larson) is a really easy guy to get along with. He’s a good person, he’s been racing for a long time and racing is all he wants to do. I think he’ll be a really good listener. I’m not one to push my opinion over, but if he’s to ask my opinion then I’ll be very honest with him and like I said when they announced that Kyle was going to be my teammate, I think there will be a little bit that I can help him with on the track. Maybe going to tracks he’s never been to — Martinsville, Pocono and some of those places and explain how restarts work or just little nuances that happen at each track. I think my role with Kyle is going to be much larger off the track with sponsor commitments, coming into more money, a lot of things that I don’t know that we pay attention to when someone gets a Cup ride versus being in the Trucks or the Nationwide.”
HOW BENEFICIAL WILL IT BE TO HAVE A TEAMMATE THAT LIVES IN TOWN AND WHERE DO YOU SEE THE GAINS?:
“Having Kyle (Larson) in the Charlotte area is going to be beneficial. At the same time, Juan (Pablo Montoya) and I really don’t have a relationship away from the race track. I don’t know that’s that important, but the fact that Kyle and I are both into karting and can go out and do that and just hang out and goof off. We’re definitely at different stages in our life where I’m married with kids and he has neither. That is a big difference in our life, but when you have a common hobby and something you can go do together and hang out and maybe become little better friends along with teammates, I think that’s going to be good. Him being in Charlotte is going to be much more beneficial to the team than what it will be to me.
“Just the team moral, getting to go into the shop and see the guys. It’s hard for Juan because he lives so far away and normally when he would come to the shop it’s for a reason. You don’t always have time to hang out and just kind of goof off. Normally when you’re there it’s when you have a photo shoot or because they needed him for something. That’s a little bit tough with Juan living so far away, but Kyle is one of those guys I think that will be at the shop a lot. That will be kind of his hangout throughout the day. The speed in the cars, our cars and I said it earlier in the year, but I feel that our cars are actually better now than they were in 2010. We haven’t won the races that we did in 2010, but the cars have been really good. A lot of the speed has just come from making good decisions in the race and getting ourselves in a better position. The 42 (Montoya) has been in a position to win a few races. I feel like we certainly at Kentucky were in a position to win a race so I don’t know that we have more speed, I think we’re just doing a better job at finishing maybe where the car should.”
HOW SPECIAL IS IT TO COME TO KANSAS SPEEDWAY AFTER GROWING UP RACING IN THE AREA?:
“I just really enjoy coming back to this part of the country. My dad, I talked to him last night and I asked him what he did yesterday and he went and saw a couple of our old friends that we raced with at I-70 and Lakeside, not necessarily guys that raced, but guys that worked on the cars and had race shops here. It was really cool to hear him tell me kind of what they were talking about and what they are doing now. Just being back here, I’ve got a lot of really good memories of this part of the country and Charlotte is my home now even though I was raised just south of here. Charlotte is my home, but I really enjoy coming back here and running into people I haven’t seen in a long time.”
IS THERE ANYTHING WITH THE RULES NEXT YEAR YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE?:
“I like the idea of the ground zero car. I think it’s going to be easier to get the car to the attitude that you want without and (John) Darby kind of mentioned this without having to put a trick spring in the car, it’s going to be simpler for the teams and I’m actually part of the test that they have a couple of wickers that they’re going to put on the car and they have a much larger spoiler that they’re going to try. I haven’t seen everything, but until you go try the stuff on the track, it’s hard to give your opinion. As a driver, we all have ideas, but 99 percent of them aren’t any good, they’re just our opinion. After the test I would probably have a much better idea of what I think they should implement and what would make the racing better. I don’t really think the racing is that bad right now. Certainly track position is key. It has always been important and when you watch any form of racing on TV whether it’s open wheel or stock cars, anything or even motorcycle racing on the super cross, if the guy gets a good start then it’s hard to catch him. Track position is always going to be important. I don’t think they’re ever going to get any type of a race car that to be in the back is going to benefit you. I like the idea that they’re trying and they’re trying some I would say off the wall ideas and stuff that you would think would never happen in NASCAR so it will be interesting after that test to see how that works out and try all the ideas that they have.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR