TEAM CHANGES GIVE EGR FRESH START
Team Changes Give McMurray, Montoya Fresh Start
By: Dave Rodman
January 11, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jamie McMurray's No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team made a couple key changes in the offseason. That left McMurray and his teammate, Juan Montoya, who's working with a new crew chief, anxious to begin Thursday's Preseason Thunder test session at Daytona International Speedway.
"We're coming into 2012 so open-minded [because] we've made so many changes at the shop and within each team," McMurray said recently. "And you make those changes thinking that everything's going to be better. They've hired a lot of new people, from engineers to management. And the shop atmosphere is completely different than it was last year.
More "It's interesting to see their thought process, and where they've been and how they did things. I'm hoping that you take the good that we already had and you place it with the good from the guys we've hired from different organizations and you can apply that, and hopefully it's gonna be good results."
There were few enough of those in 2011, coming after a season in which McMurray won both the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and Charlotte's fall race that McMurray's especially anxious to see what kind of impact new team manager Max Jones and McMurray's new car chief, Randy Cox, and engineer, Dave Winston, make.
"So with a little bit different thinking, I don't know ... We're just excited to get back to the track and to get to working again," McMurray said. "There's a whole new mind-set with the way that we're going about the cars and the setups.
"We've changed everything. The chassis are going to be quite a bit different; [they're] completely different cars than what we had last year."
Montoya also won a race in 2010 after making the Chase in 2009. But 2011 was a disappointment for Montoya, as well, as he finished 21st in points. So he's anticipating his first chance to work at a track with his new crew chief, former Hendrick Motorsports engineer Chris Heroy.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't spent much time with Heroy at the shop but we are in constant communication over the phone," Montoya said. "He's keeping me up-to-date on the changes and getting my input on what they are looking to do.
"We have a couple of test sessions coming up [Daytona, Disney World and New Smyrna] that will give us some time to figure each other out on the radio before we head into Speedweeks.
"As far as getting up to speed, I'm getting used to the crew chief changes; but in all seriousness we've had an entire off-season to prepare for the changes."
McMurray and Montoya are really anxious to get through Daytona because, as usual, they'll figure out what they really have and how the rest of the season might go, once they get away from the restrictor-plate track, which is quite an anomaly compared to everywhere else the series goes, except for Talladega.
"Daytona ... is kind of gonna depend on how the drafting works," McMurray said. "But Daytona is not a good measurement [of where a team is] -- it really isn't. When you get to Phoenix, Vegas and those kinds of tracks you kind of know what you have and what your season's gonna be like."
And Montoya also agreed whatever occurs at Daytona isn't much of a measure of how the rest of the season will go.
"I love racing at Daytona but it's not something you can gauge the rest of the year on," Montoya said. "Plate racing is much different than what 90 percent of our schedule is. Teams will have a better idea of what they have after the Phoenix race."http://www.nascar.com