NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Showtime Southern 500
Topics: Showtime Southern 500
May 8, 2010
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post-race press conference. We have our second-place finisher, Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet. Jamie had a strong car, showed it much of the night, led a lot of laps, had a solid second-place finish here at Darlington. Your thoughts?
JAMIE McMURRAY: We had a good car, but Bono called a really good race. Qualifying first, getting to have that pit stall, it made a huge difference. We beat three or four cars out of the pits each time. Most of the times we would come out in the lead and could lead 15 or 20 laps. We had a really good car, good pit stops all night, Bono called a good race. It kind of went all our way.
At the end I didn't have anything for the 11. Couldn't get our car tight enough. Kind of creeped up on it all night long, could never get the car tight enough to where I could really hustle it. It was always sort of on edge.
All in all, it was a great night for us, great weekend for us.
KERRY THARP: Certainly with the Bill France decal, that was special tonight. We'll take questions for Jamie.
Q. Jamie, it was a great weekend in both series. Can you talk about where you think you are right now, the great start to the season, then came down a little, now you seem to be coming back up.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Even like last week at Richmond, we were fastest in one of the practices. Like our cars have been really fast. We just haven't been able to get the finishes out of it. Early on, even in the race tonight, we led some laps, ran top five, then towards the end we kind of got pushed back because of the way the pit strategy worked out. I'm thinking the same thing. Even if you have to run 10th tonight, don't put yourself in a bad position.
Our season has actually been really good, winning the 500, almost winning at Talladega, running second again tonight. We've been able to put ourself in position to win three races this year. I don't know that in my career I've been able to do that, much less in the first eight or ten races.
I probably haven't done a good enough job at the races that our car wasn't good enough, I'll joke around, but a Matt Kenseth night, where you have a 20th-place car and you can finish 10th with it. I haven't done a good enough job on the other weekends.
All in all, it's impressive the cars they're able to build at Earnhardt Ganassi. When I left there in 2005, you leave to go to a bigger team, you think everything is going to be better. It's been amazing coming back and seeing just the results, how much a difference everything has been for me.
Q. Jamie, you've run good at a lot of tracks this year. Did you expect to run this good here?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, this has been one of my favorite tracks. I think in 2003 or 2004 I led quite a bit of this race and had a bad pit stop with 10 laps to go, and Terry Labonte ended up winning. This has always been one of my favorite tracks. I won a race here in Rusty's Nationwide car.
I don't know. It's weird how you have some tracks that you struggle at every time you go to and there's other places that you go to and you always run well. Darlington has just always been a really good track for me. I always liked this place.
KERRY THARP: Let's hear now also from Kurt Busch, our third-place finisher in tonight's race. He drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing.
Kurt had a strong car out there tonight. Talk about your run here this evening.
KURT BUSCH: When we first started off tonight, I thought we were in for a long battle. Our car was loose to start off. We were very loose at Richmond to start off. We figured out last week what we had wrong. I just thought we had the same thing happen to us again.
Just tried to protect the racecar. I tried to keep it off the fence, just kind of nurse it through each of its pit stops early on. The guys were solid. Our adjustments started coming, too. We were the best at the end. Our car really came on strong with three runs to go. That's when you have to be in position. We were in a great pit strategy position to just take two tires on the last stop. So it really worked out in our favor.
We also had most of our restarts on the outside lane, which I felt more comfortable in. So when things go your way, things just seem to click and hopefully you end up with a top five out of it. We did tonight with our Miller Lite Dodge. Very proud of this run. Didn't have much for Hamlin and McMurray. I did at certain points, but not at the end. Those guys had it just right. For us to battle all night and finish third at the Lady in Black, we'll take it.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions for Jamie or Kurt.
Q. Jamie, the statistics for Dover have not been too well for you. Going into that race next weekend with this finish, with this team, this car, how much confidence do you have next weekend?
JAMIE McMURRAY: That's been a good track for me. I maybe haven't had the results there. That's one of the tracks on the schedule I always really look forward to going to.
About won that race two or three years ago. I let it slide the last lap. My buddy Kenseth ended up passing me. That's actually been a good track. I can only kind of go off what the 1 car did last year. I knew the 42 felt like they ran there. Bono seemed pretty pumped up about going to Dover. It's getting to close to where he's from. Those guys always look forward to getting to those tracks. I enjoy that place.
The thing about Dover is if your car is a little bit off, you'll get a long green flag run and you can lose a lot of time. Your car has to handle really well there.
Q. Kurt, you got a new crew chief this year. You were best in class last year behind the Hendrick guys. Give us an assessment where you think your season is, where you are where you hoped to be and expected to be?
KURT BUSCH: I feel like we're competitive. I think we're a step ahead of where we were at this point than where we were last year. It's a matter of filtering through some of Steve Addington's new ideas, figuring out which ones are important each week. He has what I think is 180 degrees from what we had and we didn't run that bad last year. I think it's going well.
One thing I noticed tonight, when the yellow pops out, we're still a little slow on do we have the front air dialed in, dropping the track bar to get the car tightened up. Those moments I feel we're a little slow on. The more we go through the communication process, I think the stronger we're going to get.
We just have to get our Dodges to turn a little better with the front end and not have to rely on loosening up the back of our car so much. When we do that, I think we'll be comparable to what the Hendrick guys have and what the Ganassi cars have and the Gibbs bunch.
Q. Jamie, when you fell back from second to eighth on that pit stop, were you surprised you stalled out in traffic? After a weekend with this tire compound, this track was known in the past for tires falling off over time. Would you like to see a little bit different compound where tires fall off or is this a result of the new pavement?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I mean, it didn't surprise me at all when I got back in traffic that it was hard to pass. We kind of saw that all night long. Even last year here, the guys that were out front could get away. The biggest thing when you're up front is the first two corners, you can put five seconds on the other guys. It's just amazing coming off turn two how far ahead you can be in one corner.
I don't know. I mean, the track, it got pretty slick tonight, I felt like. My car was really loose. As the run would go on, I mean, it wasn't the old Darlington, but it still got pretty slick and was easy to get up into the wall.
I think in a few years the track will slowly keep losing grip. I don't know that it's ever going to be the same surface that we had in the past here or at like Rockingham because it's so much smoother than what we had.
I don't have any issues with it. It's still a really fun track to race on. It's very unique. I think they did a fine job with the tire. It would be nice, though, I think all of the drivers would tell you it would be really nice when the caution comes out if you had to put four tires on. It just seems like it's frustrating to run in the front for the majority of the race and then the way the pit strategies work out, to be in the back and not be able to get in the front. It would be nice if the tire had a little more fall-off.
Q. Jamie, you started the season with a Daytona 500 victory. At this point of the year, do you feel like you have kind of gotten better at consistency? Do you think the quality of the team has been there all along? How would you rate where you are right now?
JAMIE McMURRAY: We've had fast cars all year long. As you were asking the question, I thought of Vegas. We had a top five car at Vegas. That's where I got into the wall and ended up crashing us both. There have been a few races we haven't been able to capitalize on how good a car we had. I've been just really impressed with the caliber of cars they've been able to give us.
When I was at Roush, they had what I thought was a fairly complex simulation program. It's very technical. Honestly, I was worried coming over here. We have something similar to that at Ganassi, but it's different the way we get our setups and what we do. When you get used to doing something for the last four years, that's what you've lived by, I was worried about that.
But I've just been very impressed with how good we can unload at the tracks each weekend. I heard Kurt saying he wishes the front ends of their cars would turn better. I haven't complained about that at all this year. It's just amazing, the cars they're able to give Juan and I. It's just really up to me and to Juan to be able to put those finishes together.
Overall, I mean, every weekend at some point in the weekend we have a really fast car. That's all you can ask for. You just have to get to the finish line.
Q. Jamie, you continue to mention Roush, Matt Kenseth. Is there some sense of satisfaction as well as you're doing right now given the fact you were shown the door at the end of last season?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, not at all. I mean, I didn't have any hard feelings at all leaving Roush. Obviously, it was good for me to come back here. It's been great. You know, I know it's hard for you guys to understand the circumstances with the way the sponsorships worked, the way the contracts all worked out, why I wasn't the guy that was in the fourth car at Roush. But I understood all that. I knew a year ahead of time what was going to happen.
Honestly, I mean, leaving Roush and getting to come back and drive for Chip, Felix, Teresa, it's just been a lot of fun. It's so cool to show up and to get to contend to win races each weekend. No hard feelings at all there.
Q. Jamie, you mentioned Vegas. How is the Montoya-McMurray partnership going?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Our partnership? I don't believe we're partners. I understand.
It's fine. You know, Juan is very passionate. You know, it took a couple of weeks. But, you know, there's no hard feelings. Yesterday when we sat on the pole, I was on top of the truck. Juan congratulated me. It seemed very sincere. I've congratulated teammates before and deep down inside you thought, I wish that was me. You're not being truthful there. But I felt like it was sincere.
Juan is not a jealous guy. He knows the talent that he has, how good he is. He was just frustrated we were racing each other so hard.
It's been good for us because over the last four or five weeks, especially at Talladega working together, we did a great job working as a team to stay up front at a speedway race. We've also, as the races have gone on, there's a lot more give-and-take going on between us.
We're still really competitive, but there's no hard feelings over Las Vegas. That's over.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations. We'll see you at Dover. Thank you.
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