JAMIE MAC LOOKS TO GET IT BACK
CUP: Jamie Mac Looks To Get It Back
Jamie McMurray won both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in 2010 but slumped last year...
By: Tom Jensen
Two years ago, Jamie McMurray shined on three of NASCAR’s biggest stages, winning the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and the fall Charlotte Motor Speedway race all in a single season.
Last year, though, the magic mysteriously vanished in what McMurray’s car owner Chip Ganassi recently described as a “pathetic” effort for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
After his dramatic triumphs in 2010, McMurray skidded to a 27th-place points finish last year, scoring no race victories and just two top-five and four top-10 finishes, as everything that could go wrong, pretty much did go wrong. Now, the task is to get the No. 1 EGR Chevrolet back to victory lane.
McMurray has defied the odds before. He won his first Sprint Cup race in only his second career start, subbing for the injured Sterling Marlin in October 2002 to score a huge upset victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Needless to say, after last year’s tumult, there are big changes at EGR.
Although Kevin “Bono” Manion returns as McMurray’s crew chief this year, the team will have a substantially new look when it rolls into Daytona International Speedway next year.
Gone are longtime competition director Steve Hmiel and team manager Tony Glover. Their replacements are technical director John Probst, who held the same title at Red Bull Racing, and team manager Max Jones, late of Yates Racing and Roush Fenway Racing. McMurray will also have a new car chief, Randy Cox, another Red Bull alumnus.
McMurray is eager to see how the new blood translates on the track.
“Everybody seems really motivated,” McMurray said in an exclusive interview with SPEED.com Monday afternoon. “It’s tough to say this, but Chip — and I think he knew this — needed to make some big changes to get everyone in the shop pumped up. Man, when things aren’t going well, people start to point fingers and it’s this guy or that guy.
“With Chip starting at the top and replacing the top two or three guys and letting those (new) guys bring in people they were comfortable working with, and then meshing them together with the people we had, it’s definitely a completely different outlook.”
McMurray said he likes the new cars the team has built for him.
“The cars are dramatically different than what we had last year — the chassis, the bodies, the components. Everything is different than what we had last year.”
Will it be enough to get McMurray and the No. 1 EGR back to victory lane? The answer will become a lot clearer very soon.
“I’m a realist,” said McMurray. “Daytona is a wildcard. Anyone can win that race. But Phoenix, Vegas, those places, I don’t think you’re going to see us come out and be a dominant car right from the get-go. It’s going to take a little bit of time with the new tools that we’ve got to develop those and get it to where it doesn’t just work on a computer, but it actually works on a track. ... There’s so much stuff that we have that’s different from last year, but the vibe in the shop is really good.”
So what would be a satisfying 2012 season in McMurray’s eyes?
“I think a successful year would be getting our performance back to where it was in 2010,” he said. “Obviously getting to victory lane would be wonderful, but the thing about our sport is, the fastest car doesn’t always win.”