Q&A with Daytona winners McMurray, Ganassi
Jamie McMurray took his #Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet Impala to victory lane in the 52nd running of the Daytona 500. It is his first victory in the Great American Race, but his second at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), his first in July, 2007.
Today’s race was McMurray’s debut behind the wheel of a Chevrolet in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) and his first race back as a driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (EGR). He led once for just two laps, the least led by the race winner in Daytona 500 history.
The race ran eight laps beyond the scheduled 200 laps as the result of two green-white-checkered attempts at the finish. Red flags delayed the race twice for approximately two (2) hours and 25 minutes when issues with the surface of the track forced track officials to halt the action and make repairs. There were nine cautions for a total of 40 laps and 52 lead changes among 21 drivers.
McMurray’s margin of victory over fellow Team Chevy driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Impala, was just eleven one-hundreths of a second. Junior led once for a total of four laps. The runner-up run was his 12th top-10 finish in 21 DIS races.
QUESTION: Jamie McMurray, how does it feel to win the Daytona 500?
JAMIE McMURRAY: It’s unbelievable. I can’t really put it into words the way it feels. I talked to my wife this morning. She was like, you know, What would it mean to you if you won this race today?
I told her it would be like a dream come true. I’m trying to be genuine and as sincere as I can and not sound cliché. As a kid growing up, this is what you dream of, of being able to win the Daytona 500.
I won the July race here, really close race with Kyle. Coming off of turn four, seeing the checkered flag, knowing there’s not going to be another ‘green white checkered’, you’re going to be the Daytona 500 champion, I can’t explain to you. It’s very emotional. I don’t know that I’ve cried like that. I’ve kept trying to compose myself. I couldn’t get it back.
It just means so much. You know, for me to be in the position that I was four or five months ago, to have Chip and Felix and Bass Pro Shops welcome me into their organization, it means a lot. It’s a great way for me to be able to pay those guys back.
QUESTION: Crew chief Kevin Manion, how does it feel to win the Daytona 500 from your perspective?
KEVIN MANION: It means an awful lot. This is one of only a few wins I hope this year. Being a two time winner, this, for sure … I told the guys in the team meeting today, this one you will never forget if we have the opportunity to win this. The rest of your life, you will never forget a win at Daytona, and especially the Daytona 500.
QUESTION: Chip Ganassi, how does it feel?
CHIP GANASSI: Unbelievable. You hear all the time, these athletes saying when they win big things, it didn’t really sink in yet, maybe it will sink in tomorrow. I know exactly how they feel right now.
Like Jamie said, from a little boy, you think about it. I think back to how I got started in racing, whether it’s with little cars, go karts, slot cars, then obviously driving, the IndyCar successes we’ve had, sports car successes. There was always some question about, Is our NASCAR team up to the task?
You know, putting a car in the Chase last year sort of, I think, validated the way we run the business. Hopefully this tonight did that, as well.
I’m just happy for the whole team. I’m happy for all the partners. I’m happy for Felix and Teresa, happy for every single person that’s ever been a part of this team. They can take some stock in this win. It’s really important. I’m really honoured to be sitting up here representing all those people and all those teams of people.
QUESTION: Felix, you always have something to say, how does it feel?
FELIX SABATES: I’ve been trying for almost 25 years to find Victory Lane on the 500. Been a few times with Chip on the Rolex Series, Nationwide Series, but, like Chip said, it hasn’t sunk into me yet. I got this big ring. This was a helluva nice Valentine’s Day present, Jamie, to us. He said today, I love you, brother. He must have loved me because it’s Valentine’s Day.
I mean, I don’t get lost for words very often, but I’m lost for words tonight.
QUESTION. Jamie, based on what you went through last year, the fight it took to get back with Chip, to be in the position, can you take us through the last shootout, you think you have it locked up and you see the 88 in your rearview mirror?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, when Greg pushed me to the lead going into turn three, we got checked out a ways. I thought there were two or three in a line. Typically when you get two or three in a line, if the guys are running two wide behind you, you can gap them. I knew we were going to have to run another lap or two, and it was going to be over. Greg got a huge run down the frontstretch. He got by me. I don’t remember exactly everything that happened between the start/finish line for the white, then coming to the checkered.
But, you know, I got a big run down the backstretch again. I looked in my mirror and saw the 88. I’ll be honest, I was like, ‘Crap, this guy has won a lot of races here’. His family has an incredible history here.
You know, I believe everything happens for a reason. I just was like, I hope this isn’t his turn to win the Daytona 500, I hope this is mine.
You can’t tell when you look out of the back of the car how fast they’re closing. You can’t tell the rate they’re closing. I was looking at the start/finish line, my mirror, the start/finish line, thinking, I don’t think he’s going to be able to beat me to it.
Then the flag stand is so bright, I couldn’t tell what flag they were waving either. As I’m going by, I’m like looking, I can’t tell if that was the checkered flag, the white or green. I know that may sound odd. We had so many green white checkered’s, I didn’t know exactly what was going on at that point. Then you wait.
The same thing happened to me here when I won with Kyle. You wait to hear the cheers on the radio. There was silence for a while. I thought, I shouldn’t have let off the gas at this point, I should have kept going.
It’s just very hard for me to explain. I like what Felix said, I want to be a lot more excited, but I can’t believe it right now. You know what I mean? You come into this media centre, and the hype that the Daytona 500 gets media wise is unbelievable. I’m so excited to get to be a part of that. I know my wife is excited about getting to go to New York. There’s just so much that goes with this. I feel honoured that I get to be the guy that’s won this race.
QUESTION. Jamie, you said this was very emotional for you. You specifically seemed to break down when you were talking about your father. Was it because you were thinking about your father or was it about your wife or the whole emotional experience? If it was about your dad, talk to us about how he got you into racing and how it’s gotten you to this point.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, my dad cries a lot. My dad is like the first guy if something really good happens, he’s very emotional. When I was sitting in the car, I was like, Whew, I don’t want to look at him before I do my TV interview because I know I’m going to break down. And just so you guys know, my dad left before the race was over. He’s not trying to get back here now because it’s obviously a madhouse.
But, you know, my dad and my wife, I mean, when you know, you do something that you love, you know, you want to share that with the people you love (tearing up).
You can see how I feel.
QUESTION. Chip, could you talk for a minute about what led you guys to the decision to hire Jamie at the point you did? When you did, did you have any idea or thought that this guy could take you to a Daytona 500 win right out of the box?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, you know, I’ve said before, you know, when it’s time to hire a driver, you always take the best guy that’s available. And that’s a mantra that our team has lived by for a long time.
We obviously had a history with Jamie. I might point out to you to those of you who weren’t outside, this was his second first win with us (laughter). For those of you that were around back in the day in Charlotte there, that was a pretty emotional day as well for us.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I’m not quitting again, just so you guys know. I’m staying (laughter).
CHIP GANASSI: So, you know, I mean, it was just a matter of he was the best guy available. I mean, obviously we didn’t have an acrimonious split or anything when he left. It was the smart thing to do.
QUESTION. Any thought he could win this thing for you right out of the box?
CHIP GANASSI: I tell you, we were talking, and he won the race here in July. I’m trying to remember the timing of things. Seems to me that didn’t hurt him any, winning that race in July. We were already talking at that point, I know. Then right after that, you know, we kind of locked in and said, He’s our guy.
QUESTION. Jamie, if you can kind of sum up how things have come together for you on Superspeedways, particularly here. And, Chip, this is another example where a guy comes back to you and has success. Last year Dario Franchitti winning the IndyCar championship. Could you talk about what it’s like bringing a guy back, when a guy comes back, and how things seem to work out better the second time around.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I’ve always enjoyed the Superspeedway races. Typically, if I can finish ’em, I usually finish pretty well
The Daytona 500’s been a race that I think 19th is the best I’ve ever finished in this. I’ve run pretty well, but have gotten caught up in late race incidents. The July race has always been pretty good to me. I’ve always been with teams that had really good cars and really good engines. That makes a huge difference when you get to these places. You have to have a car with a good engine and it’s got to drive well at a place like here. I’ve always been really fortunate that the teams I’ve been with have been able to give me great equipment.
Plate racing is a lot about people helping you. If everyone, when you get out there, you have a decision to make when you get behind somebody of which one you want to help. I’ve been really fortunate that I’m pretty good friends with a lot of guys out there. You know, guys typically will help me when I get to plate races.
You cannot win one of these races without help. It’s not just from one guy. It takes a lot of people. You got to have a fast car, and everything’s got to work out for you. I’ve been obviously really fortunate the last two plate tracks.
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, you know, in terms of bringing Jamie back, like I said earlier, you know, when he left us, it certainly wasn’t anything that was acrimonious.
I guess, believe me, I would have been perfectly happy keeping all these guys I bring back and seem to have some success with. I would have been perfectly happy keeping them in the first place. But we’ve always put I’ve always thought that we’ve tried to put our money into the cars and into the engines. I don’t have a lot I don’t have the biggest jet over at the airport there and the flashiest trucks. We’re in the business of racing.
I don’t want to take anything away from anybody else, but we have to spend our money more wisely. These guys have had opportunities that have driven with me over the years to go get a great big contract after they’ve driven with me. I feel fortunate that they come back and have some success when they come back because that’s important. That’s important to a career.
I feel honoured that they want to come back and that we have the type of team they want to come back to. And that’s the hard work of a lot, a lot of people.
QUESTION. Jamie, I think this is your second win at Daytona and your second straight win on restrictor plates. Despite the fact this was dramatic, there’s not any reason to call this an upset, is there?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don’t think so at all. I think Juan and Martin ran last year at the Superspeedways and the ECR engines have always been known for really good restrictor plate engines.
You know, you got to be lucky, though, to win these. I’ve been able to put myself in a really good position the last two plate tracks. So, I mean, I don’t think it’s an upset. I think, you know, it’s really tough for, you know, a new driver and crew chief and team to all come together and to be able to win in their first race. That’s huge.
But, you know, like I’ve told you guys this every time you ask me, it’s been a lot easier going back to this organization than it was when I left and went to Roush because I already knew everybody here. You know, I’ve said that, that it’s very warm welcoming to me, you know, when I got to the shop. It’s everything from, you know, the guys in the fab shop to the accountants. I mean, everywhere throughout the shop, I’m very comfortable and I know everybody. I think that’s what’s made this, you know, transition back easier than what it is for, you know, if you went to an organization you didn’t know.
QUESTION. Jamie, what is your dad’s name? You haven’t seen him yet, right?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, actually I was on the phone with him when I walked in here. I didn’t know that he had left until a little bit ago. Somebody was talking to him on the phone. I was like, Give me the phone, I want to talk to him.
It would have been great for him to get to be here and share all this with me. But, you know, my dad, he comes to a lot of races. I’m very fortunate, my dad is one of my best friends. That’s who I eat lunch with every day. We ride go karts together. I play golf. That’s what we do. When we go fishing, I go with my dad. That’s who I hang out with. My dad and I have got to share a lot of great times together.
It’s unfortunate he didn’t get to be in Victory Lane. It’s fun for me. I listened to him on the phone. Oh, man, everybody has called me, my phone won’t quit ringing. He’s getting to have his own celebration right now.
QUESTION. What is his name?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Jim. Do you want me to spell it for you (smiling)?
QUESTION. Chip, you’ve won the three major races in the series that you race in. Can you talk about them and which one you would rank as your favorite?
CHIP GANASSI: I can certainly tell you this one is my new favorite (smiling).
You know, I don’t know how you rank ’em. Someday I’ll look back on it and say that was all great. I mean, you know, you get into this sport ’cause you love it, and I still love it. I plan on loving it for a while. So I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to start thinking about, you know you’re not good to see any books out of me or anything. I don’t like to look at those kind of things. That’s for the media to talk about and whatever.
I think it’s just important we stay winning and we keep trying to get better week in and week out, in whatever series we’re in. That’s why we’re there, to get better, raise the bar, do the right thing for our partners and our sponsors. You know, I just love being in this sport.
So, you know, when you’re talking about ranking wins and things, I don’t know. I’m lucky to work with the people I work with, I can tell you that. Lucky, very lucky.
QUESTION. I talked to Kevin earlier this week about the relationship that you built. Jamie, could you talk about, given your situation, coming over and working with this group that had been working with somebody like Martin Truex for so long. You’re the new guy stepping in. You’ve been with the Ganassi organisation before. Working with this crew, how has that relationship developed and was that a major factor in being here today?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, Kevin was, or Bono, kind of uncomfortable calling him that, has been one of the best surprises for me coming back. I’ve parked next to him last year every single weekend. He laughs and smiles all the time now. But I never saw him laugh or smile. Everyone that knows me knows that I typically smile all the time, there’s typically a joke in everything that I say. I thought that was really important when got with a crew chief, that we had personalities that were similar.
Then I hung out with him for a little bit. I remember going home and telling Christy, ‘Man, he is nothing like what I expected’. I’m like, ‘I really like him’. I think we’re going to get along just fine.
It’s been really nice getting to work with Kevin. He’s one of those guys very similar to me that has fun, but he’s also very serious when it’s time to be serious. He’s a racer. We hear that through the garage a lot. But, you know, there are crew chiefs that have this strict engineering background, and Kevin is a racer. When he has an off weekend, he has time off, he has a modified he messes with. He’s like me, I have go karts, I play with when I have time off. We have a lot in common. Close in age, same personalities. We both love races. That’s what we do, when we have spare time, is we go race something else.
QUESTION. Jamie, why did your father leave early? Anything to do with the delay?
JAMIE McMURRAY: My dad is notorious for leaving early (laughter). I have no idea really. I really don’t know. I’ll have to ask him.
CHIP GANASSI: I’m going to ask him to leave early again next week (laughter).
JAMIE McMURRAY: I’m sure there’s a story. If people that know my father will understand there’s going to be a great story behind this. But I don’t know why he left early. I can give you his number if you want. You can call him and talk to him about it.
He’s pretty old. He was born 1947. You guys do the math. I don’t know how old he is.
QUESTION. When you got emotional about wanting to share this with him, are you kind of not upset, but is that what makes you emotional, that he’s not here in person?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, not at all. Absolutely not. My dad, that’s who I grew up racing with. We still race together. Like I say, I mean, he’s literally my best friend probably. That’s just who I hang out with.
You know, people have told me forever, you know, that you need to spend as much time with your parents as you can while they’re around because, you know, one day they won’t be, and you’ll wish that they were.
I’m really fortunate that my dad’s cool and I like hanging out with him. He drives me crazy sometimes. I won’t lie to you. We go at each other. But I love him. We hang out together.
It’s not that big a deal that he wasn’t in Victory Lane lane to me. I almost kind of laugh at it because I know he’s fired up that he left. I got something to yell at him about now. So it’s good stuff.
QUESTION. Jamie, I’m sure a lot of drivers after the race had opinions on two of the bigger issues or underlying stories of the race. What were your thoughts on the ‘green white checkered’, how many there were, and the hole?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I thought that NASCAR and the track did a really good job trying to get it fixed. I mean, the people … I don’t think the Daytona 500 should ever end early.
Obviously when it rains and there’s exceptions to this, but I thought that they did a really good job. I was asking numerous times, what are they doing to fix it, what is the problem. There were some issues over there. I thought they did a really good job of getting it fixed. Once they figured out a solution for it, we didn’t sit out of the cars for quite so long. I thought they did a really good job of getting it fixed.
The three ‘green white checkereds,’ I was not a big fan of that on Thursday when they made the announcement of it, but now I am, because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that.
NASCAR has went out of their way with the rules package and everything they’ve done to make the fans happy. And it’s not necessarily I think if you would have asked all the drivers, they wouldn’t have wanted the three ‘green white checkereds,’ but they’re doing what they can for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what’s built this sport. I think everything was fine there.
QUESTION. You guys are up on the pit box. It’s out of your control. Your thoughts when he squeezed himself into that No. 1 spot and you knew there was a long way to go before he got back to the finish line. Talk about the highs and the anxiousness that goes on.
CHIP GANASSI: I can tell you this, this is the only sport where your eyes can deceive you. When you see your car in the lead there, you know there’s a ‘green white checkered’, you see your car in the lead, you go, Okay, is this really the lead or did we go through the last loop?
You’re thinking all the things it takes you about 10 seconds for it to sink in that you’re in the lead, believe me. That’s my view.
FELIX SABATES: Actually, I felt pretty good when I saw that 16 car behind him because I know they’re friends. He didn’t smack him. He pull up to him and pushed him gently. When he did that, I felt pretty good. I was hoping a big wreck would happen behind us. I didn’t care if it was the 42 car that wrecked behind us (laughter).
No, I just wanted the race to end. And it ended. That’s all that counts.
KEVIN MANION: Same. It was right in front of us on the last lap when we took the white, is where Greg had a great run and dove under us. I kind of just closed my eyes and listened to the spotter. You’re pretty much looking straight out on pit road. We have some monitors that we can watch TV. I felt more comfortable with my eyes closed. I’m somewhat of a quiet person. You know, just gathered your thoughts and listened to the spotter.
I heard the 88, big push. You know, that’s what you hear, Big push, big push, clear, clear, the 16, okay, out of four.
And then it was, You’re coming to the checkered flag. So it was a minute or so by the time he passed us. That’s what it takes. It was exciting, very emotional one lap. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.
QUESTION. Jamie, you made a deal with the 29 that you were going to go with him and shove him. There was a report that you made a deal with the 29. I think at that point you had the opportunity to go with him or push the 56 up high. If you don’t make that deal, do you still push the 29?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, the 29 just, you know, spotter came over and told mine, you know, Just push the hell out of me. That’s exactly what they said. The 29 was really good on restarts. The Shootout, the duels, every restart he was able to push the guy in front of him.
So when he pushed Martin, he did the same thing he did in the Shootout, he pushed him so far, tried to duck inside of him, just like the Shootout. Martin came down and block a little better than whoever it was in the Shootout race. When that happened, it killed our momentum.
Honestly, I mean, you know, you make decisions on the racetrack. It’s not always based on your friendship. At that point, you’re like, I want to win the race and I’m going to do whatever I have to to win the race. It was better for me to push Kevin at that point. If it would have been opposite, I would have went with whoever would have benefited me the most. Because when it comes down to the last lap, you certainly can have friends, but this is about winning. It wouldn’t really matter to me if someone was pissed off afterwards, because it’s the Daytona 500.
QUESTION. Chip and Felix, you guys have been beaten up a little bit over the past couple years. You had success early when Chip first came in, and it dropped off, you took your lumps and criticism. Now you came back last year with Juan. Can you talk about the validation this victory gives you. It wasn’t Juan, it wasn’t the 42 team, it’s was your second car. It shows that you really are players here.
CHIP GANASSI: It’s not with our second car, first of all, it’s with the other car. We don’t have a one, two car. All the cars get all the stuff. That’s the mantra of all of our teams. We don’t have a No. 1 driver. We have two No. 1 drivers. You know, all the drivers know that.
So there’s no, I don’t know, taking a lot of lumps over the last couple years. Like I said earlier, we have to spend our money a little wiser than some teams. I’m not ashamed of that at all.
Felix can talk more about that?
FELIX SABATES: I guess we won’t be bringing the boat back ever again (laughter).
We got beat up a little bit, but mostly by some of the people in this room, the press, we’ve taken our criticism. But Chip is a very focused person. If you cut his veins, he got motor oil coming out of ’em. He never wavered from the plan he had. Sometimes it takes a lot of money to implement these plans. Money these days don’t grow on trees.
We always looked to both our teams as being one team. We don’t have a one car and a two car. We got one car that have two drivers. That’s what’s going to make us successful.
You know, look for big things this year. I was very excited when Jamie came back with us because I always liked Jamie. Last night at dinner, I told him, we’re going to be in Victory Lane together tomorrow. Sometimes you have a feeling something is going to happen. I had that feeling. I thought that he will win this race. We here.
But we will get better. Association with Childress, with the engines, has been a blessing. I didn’t hear anybody last year complain about engines. Before we always had complaints about engines. We’ll do well this year.
QUESTION. Jamie, when you say you always dreamed about winning the Daytona 500 when you were a little kid, can you take us back a little bit, some of the people, tracks that you were thinking of? Was your dad a driver? Talk about that relationship in racing.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, my dad raced a lot, did a lot of drag racing, some stockcar racing on dirt, a little bit on asphalt. My dad sells and buys a lot of stuff. He really enjoys I joke around, he’s like Sanford and Son. He loves to buy and sell. It’s kind of his hobby.
He had sold a stockcar. The guy didn’t have enough cash. There was a go kart in the corner, I’ll take the go kart to make up for the difference. He started riding this go kart. Then we started doing it together as a family.
I grew up racing go karts. I raced at I 70, Lakeside, Lebanon, Bolivar, Missouri, modifieds, late models. Mike Mittler really gave me my first big break. I owe a lot to him. He gave Carl Edwards his break.
I mean, I assume everyone in this room knows the history of Mittler Brothers Truck team. But he gave me a great opportunity. Honestly, my dad is the one that made all that happen, because Mike had called my dad a few years earlier and said, I’d like to put Jamie in my truck.
My dad was like, I don’t think he’s ready to do that yet. Mike said, That means a lot that you didn’t throw your kid at me because most parents would. Whenever you think Jamie is ready, I want you to give me a call.
A few years later, my dad called, said he thought I was ready. So Mike is the one that really gave me a big break from racing late models. I remember coming down here with him for the first time and running the truck race they had here in ’99.
Gosh, I watched the truck race last night. I watched the Nationwide race. You see the guys get out in Victory Lane. Daytona is just really special. When I won here at the July race, I mean, it’s really special to get to win here. But you just can’t explain to somebody what it’s like to win the Daytona 500. Just nobody in this room, until you are that guy, will you ever understand it.
QUESTION. Jamie and Kevin, when it comes to restrictor plate races, the best car doesn’t always win the race. Up until those final two laps, yours maybe was not one that was counted as the best car on the racetrack. Did you feel prior to those two laps that you had a legitimate chance to win this race? If so, why?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, Chip asked me under one of the red flags, What do you think of your car?
I told him, We’ll find out when it comes time to go.
Everybody early on in the race, you can see a lot of give and take. If there’s a small hole, guys were giving room. When it comes down to the last few laps, it’s not that way. Then you find out who really has a good car.
But Kevin made a really good decision on staying out, not pitting at the end. I have no idea why those guys pitted. We saw Jimmie Johnson win the duel, you know, with no tires. So I didn’t understand that, why anybody would have pitted at that point, knowing it was going to be a couple of ‘green white checkereds.’ So he made a good decision to keep us out.
You know, it just all worked out. Honestly I wanted the bottom. I felt my car was better to be on the bottom. When I had to restart on the outside, I didn’t want to be there. Typically that’s where I’ve gotten wrecked here, being on the outside. When I had to line up on the outside, I was like, This is not where I want to be right now, but it worked out.
KEVIN MANION: Any time you can put yourself in a position in the later stage of the race, you have a chance to win. I think we showed last Saturday we had a good car. We were a little too loose during the daytime. I think when the sun went down with the two delays, we had, at one time, a track temperature change of close to 15 degrees. I think on that last run, one of my key factors of staying out, we made the second red flag, Jamie and I was able to talk, and we were able to make a small air pressure adjustment. To do that, we had to take four tires because we felt it was going to go to the end.
Doing that four tires, we were able to, you know, just pick off a little bit of position, a little bit of position. Next thing you know, through the ‘green white checkereds,’ we go from 10th, to 9th, to 8th, before you know it, you’re in the front row. We led the important lap.
But to answer your question, I think when the sun went down, the car really came to us, real similar to setup last Saturday night. I was excited to see the cool temperatures. It definitely, definitely gained a lot of speed in just that last 38 laps, for sure.
QUESTION. Chip, I understand that Teresa was not here today. Have you had a chance to talk to her since the race?
CHIP GANASSI: I haven’t. Certainly we talked the other day. She said, Good luck. I know she watches, is interested.
QUESTION. What does it mean for you to win this race for her?
CHIP GANASSI: This business is about it’s very inclusionary. You got to include people. It takes a team. I always say that. It takes a team. You know, I don’t have all the skills it takes. That’s why I got this guy sitting on my left and people like Teresa. You know, it takes a lot, a lot of effort on a lot of people’s part.
I’m lucky that I have Felix and Teresa with me, because sometimes I’m at some other races somewhere, and they’re standing in when I need them. Certainly they can pick the ball up and run anytime they want, they know. It’s good to have great partners.
QUESTION. How much different are you from the first time you raced for Chip? To be able to share the biggest win of your career on Valentine’s Day with your wife.
JAMIE McMURRAY: That’s pretty exciting. I’m supposed to give her a back rub tonight. I think I’m going to get out of it tonight, though (smiling).
I don’t even know what you asked me. I got to thinking about rubbing her back (smiling).
What did you ask me?
QUESTION. Basically how different are you than you were the first go round with Chip?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, when I first came and drove for Chip and Felix in 2002, I was very overwhelmed with the environment that I was put in. That was big shoes to get in Sterling’s car. I mean, huge learning curve.
Certainly coming back here, it’s way different. I mean, I’m at a different point in my life. Like you say, I’m married. You know, your nightlife is a lot different. Just everything’s different. I mean, it is. I go to bed at 8:30 at night. Jenna knows that because she tries to keep up with me.
But I also like to get up early. I go to sleep early so I can get up early. Everybody makes fun of me for that, but I think that’s what normal people do.
But it is, I mean, at a different point in my life, for sure. I mean, it’s just great to be back here and be a part of this. You know, I’ve spent the last 11 days here in Daytona. I think some of the best stuff is being able to just call Chip or Felix. Chip and I went out and ate lunch, went out and ate dinner. He’s my car owner, but he’s also my friend. I think that’s really important.
I think that’s something that, you know, I haven’t had in the last four years. I think that is something that’s very important to me.
QUESTION. Jamie, after you finished screaming for joy, you obviously had some time to drive around the backstretch. What were you thinking in the racecar?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don’t even remember. I really don’t. I was thinking everyone kept running into me, when you’re going around slow. I don’t know. Man, I really don’t remember. I came to the frontstretch. I cut a couple of doughnuts. I think burnout is pretty cool, but kind of overrated. I was like, I’ll do a little burnout. I’ve seen so many people get out after winning the 500 and stand on their car. I haven’t won a ton of races. And I thought, I’m going to get out, stand on my car and listen to all these people scream.
I got to tell you, it was a great feeling. It was just unbelievable. I ran up and got the flag. When I came back, running down the hill, I saw Daytona 500 painted in the grass. I kneeled down. I was like, This is just unreal right now.
QUESTION. Jamie, did all of the go kart racing and the Grand Am experience give you an edge? Do you think some more of the NASCAR drivers might be thinking about taking up go karts?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No. I do go kart racing, first off, because I get to do it with my dad. But I love racing go karts. My favorite part of the go karting is to go and see a five year old kid that weighs 60 pounds or 40 pounds with a 10 pound helmet on his head. I remember those days. I watch them with their dads, kind of see everything, what’s going on. It’s fun. I mean, that’s why I do that.
When Chip asked me to do the Grand Am race, it’s the same thing. I think every time you get in a full sized racecar and you get to do a road course, you learn a little bit. I got to do it with three other really talented road racing drivers. Those cars have telemetry on it. You can overlay their laps versus yours. I thought it’s a great learning experience. And the same thing, it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun to get to come down and be a part of.
I mean, Chip’s teams in the Rolex Series are the best ones, bar none. To get to be a driver in that, I just did it because I wanted to and it was a fun opportunity.
QUESTION. Jamie, your buddy Greg Biffle was pushing you there at the end. Tell me what you think about that. Also he said you owe him dinner.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I will buy him dinner for sure.
You know, I’ve already kind of said this a couple times, so…
The thing with Greg is, when you get out there, I knew that Greg and I have a good friendship. You know, our wives hang out. It’s a different friendship than just the motorhome lot that you maybe have with other drivers. And I’ve been Greg’s teammate for the last three or four years.
I somewhat know how Greg races. Greg is a really smart driver. And, you know, if I would have been in his position and he’d had been leading, I would have been right behind, I would have done the same thing. I would have pushed him as far as I could. The goal, guys, when you see those guys get locked up, is you want to clear the front bumper of the car beside you. Once you break that plane, you can get away from them. If you can’t break that plane, then you stall out, and that’s when you see the inside row come back up.
So when Greg got ahold of me so early coming off of turn two, you can feel him shoving, and the engine’s just revving like crazy, like it hasn’t all night, I’m like, We’re going to clear them, this is going to work out perfect.
Yeah, I mean, you just got to have help. Certainly having a good friend behind you is important.