IN THE COCKPIT: Jamie McMurray - Time for Bristol
I enjoyed a fun, break-from-the-norm off weekend and although it’s back to work at the race track, that pattern will continue for me the next few days.
My wife and I didn’t go to the Caribbean last week; we didn’t go to the beach; we didn’t even visit our hometowns. Instead, I raced go-karts at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C., and had an absolute blast. On two separate days, I qualified third and fourth and finished in the top 10 in the first race and fourth in the second. Maybe not what you’d expect from a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular, but I was pretty proud of myself, and more importantly, couldn’t have had more fun. I build my own chassis and do all the work myself, so I really enjoy competing against those World Karting Association guys who do it on a regular basis, oftentimes buying their karts. There’s a lot of pride associated with building your own stuff, racing it and doing well with it. I wouldn’t trade my fourth-place finish in my own equipment for a win in someone else’s any day.
The little kid in me probably will surface again on Wednesday when I get to swap cars with my Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Scott is going to take the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/McDonalds Chevrolet for a spin at Talladega while I climb behind the wheel of his Indy car. I am so excited about the chance to do this. Heck, I’ve never been to an IndyCar race, much less sat inside the cockpit of one of the cars. Unfortunately for Scott, he won’t get nearly the thrill I will because you’re wide-open at Talladega on the first lap, handling is a non-issue and he won’t sense the speed sensation because he is accustomed to running 220 mph. He did have a little fun at my expense the other day, though, telling the media how cold I’ll be in that open cockpit. But a blizzard couldn’t dampen my excitement for this unique opportunity.
Bristol Motor Speedway presents its own unique opportunity to NASCAR teams, and it’s next on the schedule. We’ve all heard it a million times, but there really is no place like Bristol. There is such an incredible atmosphere there. I’ve never been to Victory Lane at Bristol, so I can only imagine what it must feel like, but I’m always amazed by the roar of the crowd when I climb out of the car after a race. The fans love it and so do most of the competitors. I was really fond of the “old Bristol” before they repaved it, but I’ve also had success on the new configuration. It’s so completely different from the former and seems so much bigger. But it’s still Bristol.
Our Bass Pro Shops/McDonald's team finished eighth and third there in 2010 and we’re hoping to fall right in line with that this time around. We’ve had a bit of a rough start to the 2011 season, breaking a valve spring at Daytona, getting in a wreck at Phoenix and running poorly at Las Vegas, but I try not to let that kind of thing get to me. Anyone who told you they don’t think about the points this early in the season would be lying, but we give it 110 percent every week, whether we finished dead last or won the previous race. We don’t race any differently or take a new approach coming off a bad race. It’s always the same game plan and I do my best to not worry about the points but rather concentrate on the effort and performance.
It’s time for us to get back to the track and try to redeem ourselves after a slow start to the year. I’m not a big proponent of off weekends but wish we raced every week. I just enjoy being at the track whether we finished well in the last race or not.
I will miss having my wife and baby boy at the track the next week or two, though. Carter has done great traveling so far but the off weekend was advantageous because Christy finally was able to get him on a schedule. That was challenging with consecutive West Coast races. But she seems to have it worked out now and he is sleeping better. So, we’re going to stick with his new schedule, even though it means them staying back in North Carolina to get him better adjusted.
I’ll miss them but hope our team can bring home a nice piece of hardware in return. After all, don’t parents usually try to bring their kids something back from their business trips?