Q&A with Jamie McMurray at the Brickyard

Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S/CESSNA CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed his former win at the Brickyard and what it meant to him, his season to date, the rules package change for this weekend, keeping his cool on-track, and more.

REFLECT BACK TO THAT WIN AND THEN RETURNING NOW. HOW BIG OF A DEAL WAS IT TO WIN HERE AT THE BRICKYARD?

“For me, when I look back at the picture of getting to kiss the bricks, it’s special for a lot of different reasons. But one of those was because Christy was pregnant with Carter, 7 months I think with a big belly, and I remember on that day as we kissed the bricks, looking at her and telling her what a special memory we were going to have with him and the fact that we’ve won the race and we’re kissing the bricks and he’s in your belly.

“And so, we have that picture in our motor home and we talk about it each weekend. Carter is four and a half, and he doesn’t completely understand how important this track is to all of us. And honestly he relates to this track based on the movie, Turbo, where the snail races around here. We watched that a couple of times this week. He’s like dad, that’s the track we’re going to, right? I’m like, yeah, Carter, that’s where we’re going. So, he doesn’t quite get it and as special as it is, but for me, when I look back to that day, that’s one of the memories that pops up first."

CHEVROLET HAS WON THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE RACES HERE. YOU DRIVE A CHEVY. HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DOES THAT GIVE YOU? WHY DO YOU THINK CHEVY HAS BEEN SO STRONG AT INDY?

“It’s interesting when you look at some of the tracks how it seems like certain makes will dominate that track over others. And this has been a great track for Chevy. I don’t think anyone can explain exactly why. But, it has been a great track. We have a really good car this weekend. I feel really good about the No. 1 car. We were able to unload close. In first practice, I think we were third or fourth right off the truck. And that is a big deal every single weekend, but it’s a huge deal this weekend because we have somewhat of a limited amount of practice with the completely different package and there are a lot of unknowns going into that. So the fact that you can start off on the right foot is critical in your weekend. So we haven’t had to make dramatic changes. We had a test plan. The guys have done a really good job of executing the plan and not having to worry about lap times because we’ve been able to post a time each practice out. And so, it’s been a good weekend so far."

WHY HAS CHEVY BEEN SO STRONG HERE? IS IT A FLUKE?

“I don’t think it’s a fluke. It’s obviously been a good track for the Chevy drivers. I don’t know how many Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have won together, but I’ll guess it’s half of them, right? So, it’s a really good track for them. I think when you come down to that, those guys have won a lot of races here and they’re in Chevy cars and it’s just been a good track."

YOUR STATS ARE ALMOST IDENTICAL TO WHAT RYAN NEWMAN’S WERE AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR. HE HAD A GREAT SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON AND PUSHED HARD FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DOES THAT GIVE YOU HOPE OR INSPIRATION FOR WHAT YOU COULD ACHIEVE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THIS YEAR?

“We’ve had a really good year. We’ve been able to take our bad days and turn them into 15th place finishes, which is ultimately what you have to do if you want to have a good points year. We’ve also had a couple of good races at short tracks. Richmond and Phoenix were good. I was a little bit disappointed at Loudon last we weekend. We honestly only had a 6th to 8th-place car and I would love to have that finish back right now. I ended up making a mistake on a restart and I didn’t miss a shift, I actually went from third to second and just over-revved the engine and limped around to like a 26th place finish, which stings really bad at this point in the season because that was 20 points that I feel like we gave up last week that we didn’t have to. But our season has been really good. Our team has done a really good job. I’m in my second year with a rookie crew chief. Matt (McCall) has done a great job. Matt got to the shop at like 3:45 in the morning on Monday after I made a mistake shifting. I felt like he thought there was more pressure on him to do well and so I just can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s done a great job of preparing the car every single weekend and our team has done a really good job of executing the weekends."

HAS THE SPOILER DONE WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD? OR DO YOU THINK THE CLOSING RATE IS GOING TO BE AS DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT AS SOME PEOPLE THINK IT MIGHT BE? 
“Well, I think it’s really hard to give you an answer to that because we haven’t had a restart first off. And to me the restart is where this package is going to play a bigger role than in practice. The thing with practice is that as you start to catch the car in front of you, typically their car is not very good. So, when you see somebody catching you fairly quick you pull in so you can work on it and get your car better. I really haven’t been within 10 car lengths of anyone in front of me. The closest I was to anyone was behind (Greg) Biffle at the very start of practice. He pulled off the racetrack when I got within about 10 car lengths of him. I really don’t know. I haven’t gotten to feel the…you know they said like 100 and some horsepower drag advantage to the car in back. I haven’t been close enough to feel that yet. I honestly think until we get into the race on Sunday that it’s hard to get anyone’s true opinion on what we are going to have. To me on Sunday when you get two cars side-by-side with this package the guy in third is going to have an extra engine. It’s going to be crazy the amount of speed that he is going to have. I don’t know, the restarts are going to be pretty wild, I think."

WAS YOUR CARS SET-UP WHEN YOU WON PERFECT? HOW HARD IS IT TO GET TO THAT POINT? 
“So the year that I won the No. 42 really dominated the race. Juan (Pablo Montoya) led most of the laps. I believe he might have sat on the pole for that year. I think I qualified third of fourth. This is one of the harder tracks to pass at, so qualifying is critical. I wouldn’t say my car was perfect that year, but we … I say we… we didn’t have anything to do with it. Bono (Kevin Manion) made a really good decision to put two tires on at the end and it got us the track position we needed. Then once you get out front I think the No. 42 got back in dirty air and ended up crashing in the race. So, you don’t have to have a perfect car, but you do have to have a perfect race."

RON RIVERA (HEAD COACH FOR THE CAROLINA PANTHERS NFL TEAM) CAME BY YOUR SHOP AGAIN THIS WEEK. LAST TIME HE WAS THERE IN 2014, YOU WON THE ALL-STAR RACE. WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU TOOK AWAY FROM HIS VISIT THIS TIME? 
“Well I actually wasn’t at the shop the first time that Ron came. I was at an appearance. I didn’t meet him until the night of the All-Star race and got to say ‘hi’ just for a few minutes. He actually came to Victory Lane that night and hung out. I think we got to spray him with champagne. That was kind of fun. His speech this week was super inspirational. I went up to him afterwards and I’m like ‘I feel like tackling somebody.’ I totally get at half time how you could motivate your guys. He is first off a really big guy. Everybody is big to me, but he’s a pretty big guy in general. And he just has the ability when he raises his voice he had very articulated words and he just got your attention and just gave great examples. After listening to him you understand why he is an NFL coach. That was cool. I told him kind of jokingly that we won the last time he was there and I was thankful that he was there before the Brickyard this year, because this is one of our bigger races. Hopefully it works again."

RECENTLY IT’S BEEN SAID THAT YOUR COOL, CALM AND COLLECTIVE DEMEANOR HAS MADE YOU ONE OF THE MOST UNDERRATED DRIVERS ON THE CIRCUIT. ARE YOU OKAY WITH THAT ASSESSMENT? 
“Here is what I would tell you. I think I do a better job of hiding it than everybody else. I also don’t key the radio when I’m mad or when I have something to say. I don’t know why people key the radio to announce to the world what they are feeling. That takes thought to actually key the radio and say everything. I have moments just like everybody else. I just don’t let everyone see it."

WHO HELPED YOU GET DOWN THIS PATH TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY AND WHAT DID THEY DO TO HELP YOU GET THIS START AND THIS FAR? 
“Really my first big break came with late model racing with a guy that owned the tracks in Missouri where I raced, guys named Bill and David Willard. Then my next break came from Mittler Brothers, which was awesome to see that truck at Eldora (No. 63 Chevrolet, driven by Bobby Pierce). It was so much fun to look they have the smallest pit box on pit road and as I looked I recognized a few of the guys actually sitting on there that I haven’t seen in 15 years. But the coolest thing for me of that race was I saw a picture online of Mike Mittler in the fender well of the truck teching the engine. You guys might not know when I drove that truck, Mike built the engines. He would work his day job and then our race shop was right down from Mittler Brothers main office. Mike would come down at 7 or 8 at night and I remember staying until 1 or 2 in the morning and he would build the engines. We would dyno them and then we would put them in the next day. You just don’t see that anymore. I have no idea if Mike built that engine, but I know how proud he was of being able to do that. It had to be one of the highlights of his racing career of what happened at Eldora so it was really fun for me to watch."

HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE INDYCAR SHOP AND DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAMMATE HAS A CHANCE TO CATCH YOUR FORMER TEAMMATE FOR THE TITLE? 
“I have not been to the IndyCar shop. When I saw Juan (Pablo Montoya) wreck out early last week I’m like ‘wow this is going to be a huge point turnaround.’ I fell asleep before the race was over, but when I woke up I saw that Scott (Dixon) didn’t have a good night. I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know how the IndyCar point system works. It seems like you can make up ground faster there than you can on the NASCAR side. I’ve got to run the Rolex (24 Hour) race with him (Scott) a few times and he is and exceptional driver and he is super quiet and stealthy. I would never count him out until it’s mathematically impossible."

WHAT IS THE KEY TO NOT KEYING THE MICROPHONE WHEN YOU ARE UPSET? IS THERE SOME SORT OF INTERNAL MECHANISM THAT YOU HAVE THAT SAFE GUARDS YOURSELF FROM DOING THAT? 
“My brain? I don’t know. Here is the thing. There is not really a lot to gain by that. I have two kids who love watching NASCAR. I don’t want them to hear that. I’ve never been the guy to key the radio and say that, but after having kids you are consciously… I am… I’m not going to put that out there. Not only if there are kids and people scanning, but also for McDonald’s, for Cessna, for all of our partners. There are a lot of people in the suites that are listening and I just don’t think that is appropriate. Now, I think some people get off on keying the radio and making an ass of themselves. I just don’t. I just say it to myself and have my own moment inside the car. Every once in a while I lose it and I key the radio whether I’m yelling at the spotter or yelling at something that is going or I’m mad at someone I want them to go talk to, but most of the time I just don’t. I just keep it to myself and I move on."

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