Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
Associated Press | File February
Jamie McMurray says he is quite comfortable now with his place in the Chip Ganassi Racing team. He says his time with Roush Fenway Racing helped him see what he really wanted in a team
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jamie McMurray has no regrets about the ebbs and flows of his career since his 2002 Sprint Cup debut with Chip Ganassi Racing.
There was a win in his second career start as Sterling Marlin's injury replacement, then two near misses on the Chase for the Cup championship field. He eventually decided the Ganassi organization was too small for him and he wanted to try something bigger, at Roush Fenway Racing, where he spent four unsatisfying seasons.
Looking for a new home in 2010, he wound up back with Ganassi, where they won three of the biggest races of the year in a breakout year for driver and owner.
But there was no follow-up, no momentum, as 2011 and 2012 were rebuilding years for the entire organization.
Through it all - only two wins with Roush, no appearances in the Chase in nine seasons - McMurray has never kicked himself for leaving Ganassi after the 2005 season. Instead, he views it as a learning experience that shaped his adulthood, led him into marriage and fatherhood, and helped him become content with his career.
"For me, meeting my wife, some of the people I dated leading up to that, made me pick what I wanted and what I didn't want and the same thing with going to a different race team," McMurray said. "I realized that where I was at [Roush], I wanted things the way they are done here [at Ganassi] and I wanted to be treated the way I am treated here.
"I'm really happy now. As a driver, I went through the 'couldn't wait to get out of here and go on to the next' thing," he said. "And now I know what it's like at other places. I think most drivers would like to stay where they are for their careers. Especially if they can be successful. I think there are very few people in the garage who are like 'I can't wait to get out of here and go somewhere else.' Most want to stay where they are and work it out."
So McMurray, like everyone else at Ganassi, has dug in the last several years in an effort to make it work out. Sure, he won the 2010 season-opening Daytona 500, Indianapolis and the October race at Charlotte for a sweep of three of the biggest races on the calendar.
But the next two years saw a combined seven top-10s as McMurray finished 27th and 21st in the standings. Juan Pablo Montoya wasn't much better off - he had 10 top-10s and was 21st and 22nd in the points.
The hard work has paid off this year as McMurray heads into Talladega Superspeedway this weekend ranked 12th in the standings with three top-10s, the same amount he scored all of last year. And, Montoya would have won at Richmond last weekend if not for a late caution that sent the race into overtime.
"Our cars have been way better this year. I really think the cars are better now than they were in 2010 when we won the big races," McMurray said. "Even though we didn't start this year off winning the Daytona 500, when I look at every track we've been to this season, we've run really well at every track. Even tracks that for the past years have been tough tracks for us, we've run competitively."
The trick, McMurray said, was the organization heading into research and development mode last year when it was apparent neither driver was going to make the Chase.
"We had a really good plan and we spent the last half of last year, both teams kind of went in separate directions and tried to get developed on what we needed for this year," McMurray said. "They did a really good job over the winter of picking the right chassis to build and the right components to bolt onto it, and I think our simulation program has come a long way. We've been able to unload a lot closer at the track.
"And our [two] cars have been able to run a lot closer than what they had been in past years, and that's really important because when one team is behind, you can go borrow and feel comfortable that if you put their stuff in you can improve because they are quick."
McMurray also gives credit to team owner Ganassi, who moved to Hendrick Motorsports engines this year and made the commitment to turn the NASCAR program around.
"Chip has made a massive financial contribution to have the engines and to help the team," McMurray said. "I'm happy for him because I know he's put a lot into this, and it's great that both cars are finally good."
Cars fast at Indy test
NASCAR had the perfect combination for the start of Tuesday's tire test in Indianapolis: cool track, new tires, long straightaways and cars with grip.
It doesn't get any better than that , and they aren't likely go much faster than this, either.
After Mark Martin wrote on Twitter that he had hit 212 mph in the backstretch during the morning session, a disbelieving Jeff Gordon walked over to his team to see what it had recorded.
"They said 214 and I said, 'My gosh, it really is fast,' " Gordon said.
To put the speeds in perspective, Denny Hamlin won last year's Brickyard 400 pole with a fast lap of 182.293 mph. Gordon said all the cars Tuesday were faster.
The incredibly quick speeds didn't last long when the temperatures warmed up and tires started wearing faster.
And while nobody expects the cars to go anywhere close to these speeds in late July, everybody was encouraged by the early performance of the new Gen-6 cars on one of America's most historic, and tricky tracks.
"Like so many other tracks, this car adapts well, it sticks really well to the track," said Gordon, who has won all four of his Cup titles with Hendrick Motorsports. "I'm pretty happy today because I think it went well."
All of that is good news for a series that hasn't always had the smoothest races on Indy's 2.5-mile oval.
Tire wear had been an issue for years before the 2008 race turned into a caution-marred debacle of short sprints. Since then, Goodyear has come out with tire compounds that have worked better at Indy.
On Tuesday, Gordon and a handful of other drivers were asked to start the testing on a new more environmentally friendly tire. It worked spectacularly well under ideal conditions. The tires, Gordon said, did not respond nearly as well in the afternoon, and Trevor Bayne, who also tested, noted his speeds were down by about one full second per lap in the heat.
The bigger concern?
"You want balance so the car enters the turn comfortably and that's what we had," Gordon said. "But it was definitely wearing a little more than we wanted it to."
NASCAR has suspended the two Richard Childress Racing crew members arrested for fighting with Nelson Piquet Jr. at Richmond.
Thomas Costello and Michael Searce were both suspended for four Nationwide Series races and fined $15,000 each. They were also placed on probation until the end of the year for the altercation in the motorhome lot after Friday night's race.
Henrico County police charged Searce with two counts of misdemeanor assault, and Costello with one count of misdemeanor assault. NASCAR cited "actions detrimental to stock car racing. Involved in an altercation with another competitor after the race had concluded," as reason for their punishment.
The altercation happened long after Scott and Piquet tangled on the track and then on pit road after the race. Scott approached Piquet, and Piquet shoved him and kicked Scott in the groin.
Piquet tweeted on Saturday night a friend of his hurt his shoulder in the fight with the RCR crew members, whom team owner Richard Childress claimed "were walking to their cars and words were exchanged with members from another team, which led to an altercation."
Piquet also made light of kicking Scott.
"Afterwards on pit road, my first reaction was to defend myself. I had no intent to break the code," he posted on Twitter. "With that kick, no wonder I race cars and not play soccer. I look forward to moving on and racing again."
Piquet and Scott are on probation, until June 26, for slamming their cars into each other on the track. Also on probation are Piquet crew chief Chris Carrier and Scott crew chief Phil Gould.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us