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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 1, 2008
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to welcome everybody to this week's NASCAR teleconference. It's in advance of Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway. That race, the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola.
Our first guest today is the race's defending champion, Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Irwin WeldTec Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Jamie is currently 24th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. A little bit later in the call, we'll be joined by the president of Daytona International Speedway, Robin Braig, to talk about Saturday night's race.
Jamie, first of all, thanks for joining us. Obviously like to ask you, you're coming back to NASCAR's most famous racetrack, Daytona International Speedway, as the defending champion. What does that feel like?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I'm looking forward to it. We've actually built a brand-new car there. We didn't run very well in the 500. The guys have really learned a lot about the superspeedway program with the Car of Tomorrow. We've built a brand-new car to go there and look forward to it.
That's a fun race. It's a little bit shorter and obviously run at night. So it's fun, you know, as a driver. It's quite a bit cooler there.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to the media for questions now for today's teleconference guest, Jamie McMurray.
Q. What does last year's win do your confidence in the back of your mind in terms of are you comfortable, more comfortable, in these restrictor plate races now?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I seem to have been more successful at the superspeedway races, whether it's at Daytona or Talladega. That's always been places that I've run well at. You know, I enjoy doing that. I tend to be able to get with the right guys. When you go to the speedway races, there's always a group of, I don't know, six or eight guys that always run well at those. All those guys always want to get together and help each other.
So, you know, I enjoy getting to do the speedway races.
Q. Because of that, do you think you've earned the respect of the fellow drivers and they'll maybe want to draft with you more now?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I mean, really, since I don't know about my rookie year, I've always run well at those races. You know, all the guys that run good at those, you remember. I mean, I know in my head already the guys that will run well there and the guys you've drafted with, and you have some history with. I mean, your teammates are always guys that you want to help. But there's always a group of three or four guys that your car works better with and you've drafted with over the years that you've always seemed to work together.
Q. Obviously last weekend was so rough. It couldn't have been worse. Since you thought about what happened, can you explain it any further, talk a little bit about it?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, they needed to -- certainly all the spotters need to be on the same stand. I've done a little bit of research. I found out that at Loudon, they have some of the spotters are above the tower, then some spotters are at a lower level, maybe a hundred yards away.
When a driver is gonna pit, that spotter will wave his hand. If you see that you're around that car, either way, your spotter will say the 20 car is pitting or 88, whoever it is. If you're around him, you know.
My spotter wasn't on the same stand as Dale Jr.'s was. And Dale Jr. actually called me after the race and we talked about it a little bit. I asked him, I was like, I never saw you wave your hand out the window. He said, Well, I didn't. I was busy in my car.
So, I mean, there was a lot of things that led up to that. The fact that if your car works on the apron, you run on the apron at Loudon. I mean, I would like to see them certainly put all the spotters in the same group. I can't believe that at this point in NASCAR that everyone's not together. At the same time, maybe they need to use the access road that they already have at Loudon because you do race on the apron there. Getting onto pit road, I'm sure that's happened before.
But, I mean, it was just unfortunate for both me and Junior.
Q. How much have you thought about it afterwards? Is there anything about racing on the apron, because people talk about that, too?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, the apron just has a lot of grip. I've been there before where I've seen guys on the apron and my car didn't work down there. Then there's this weekend, that's where my car had the most grip and that's where I had to run at to get good bite up off the corner.
You move around. That's one cool part about our sport, you don't have to run the same groove as everybody else. You can move around. I mean, that's always been the case at Loudon.
Q. During the 500, a lot of the drivers conserved their tires until the track cooled in the later stages of the race. A lot of talk about the track itself being worn out. What about this coming race? Do you expect things to be very different?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I think what a lot of guys were concerned with at Daytona is that with the Car of Tomorrow, it was a little harder to see around it and you couldn't really see through the back window of the guy in front of you. So I think most of guys felt we were going to have a huge wreck early on. So, you know, everyone kind of was patient.
I know for us, we rode around in the back intentionally, not hoping that there was a wreck, but if there was one, hoping you wouldn't be involved in it.
We've run this car so much now, and with the race starting at night, certainly should be a little bit cooler. I don't know what to expect. Everyone's got their cars to where they drive better. At Talladega, I mean, the cars, they bump-draft better than the old cars did. Be curious to see kind of how that all works out.
But I think you'll see a pack of cars on new tires. And as the tires wear out, you'll see it string out a little bit just because the track is worn out and it's hard to get ahold of. But that's a good thing. It's great when the tracks are worn out and bumpy because you have to work on your car and make it handle.
Q. You actually think that's a good thing?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, every time they repave a racetrack, maybe Bristol, but I don't know that they've repaved a racetrack ever and the drivers thought it was better racing.
Q. You've had some ups and downs in obviously the last couple weeks. You said you haven't had the finishes you wanted. How do you kind of balance what you have to do to break out of that streak, get going back where you feel your team is capable of running?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Certainly at Michigan, if the caution flag doesn't come out, I'm racing Junior for the win there. Sonoma, running second. If the caution doesn't come out, Harvick doesn't overdrive the corner and run into the back of us, you're going to run well there. We ran well this weekend.
Cars have been really good. The whole team has really done their job. Almost all the things that are in our control we've done correctly. Just have not had -- we don't really need good luck; we just don't really need the bad luck right now.
But the hardest part of this deal is to get your cars fast and put yourself in the position at the end of a race were you have a chance to win. And we've been able to do that like two of the last three weeks.
You know, I'm not down at all. If anything, probably more upbeat more than anything because we've went to a lot of different-type racetracks, whether it's a two-mile Michigan, Sonoma, Loudon, and we've had cars that were really fast.
So, I mean, really things are good right now. We just haven't been able to get the finish out of it.
Q. Did you encounter any form of displeasure from the fans after wrecking with Earnhardt last week?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No.
Q. Drivers maybe expect a bit more scrutiny after they tangle with the most popular driver in the sport.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, certainly you don't have much control over that. I think if you're racing for the win at the end of a race or you just dump somebody, it's one thing.
What happened between Junior and I, that was an accident. I mean, I certainly don't blame myself on that. So I don't know. I don't know. I haven't worried about that.
Q. Are you getting frustrated you haven't been able to get those finishes and are you feeling pressure from the organization about getting into the top five?
JAMIE McMURRAY: You know, it's frustrating when you go to a race. I'll give you Sonoma as an example because that's a tiring racetrack and it's a long race. When you race 99% of the race, you put yourself in the position to run well, and then you lose it all with two or three laps to go and it's something that's totally out of your control. I mean, that's frustrating.
But that's part of racing. There's not a lot you can do about it. There's not really a place you could have put yourself in that that wouldn't have happened to you.
You know, ultimately with racing, I think you have to focus on the things that are in your control. And if you do all those things correctly, sometimes you can't control the results of a race.
Q. Are you concerned about your job at Roush Fenway?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No.
Q. You mentioned luck. Are good results mostly hard work meeting good luck or hard work avoiding bad luck?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Oh, I guess it takes a little bit of both. I think when you view people's seasons, you look back, and that guy will tell you. The problem with racing is that unless you're on our team, if you look at the results, you're like, They finished 18th this week or this week they finished 40th. If you watched the whole race, been a part of the team, you understand what happened or why this happened or why that's where they finished.
And I think if you're a fan of a certain driver or you're actually on that team, I think you understand it. If you're not, and you haven't paid any attention, then I think it's easy sometimes to maybe not understand the whole story.
Certainly racing is about having some good luck and then not having any bad.
Q. You mentioned fans understanding. Can you describe to a fan what driving on the edge is like at Daytona, what that requires. Is driving on the edge sort of an obsession for you?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Oh, I don't know. I mean, I think you've asked me this question before and I couldn't answer it.
Q. Do you ever feel like you might get a chance on an off weekend in NASCAR, do you think you'll come back and join us at one of our local tracks in Missouri again?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Usually your off weekend you either go testing or someone has something already planned for you. You know, it's hard. My family all lives in North Carolina now. They all live within 10 minutes of me.
I don't have necessarily someone to go back to and see and to visit there. I don't get back to Missouri very often. I mean, it's certainly somewhere that I'll always call home, but I don't really have a reason to go back there right now because my family all lives in North Carolina.
Q. I know your Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards is from Missouri. Do you ever hang out any time?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, because Carl lives in Columbia still.
Q. Your team has been racing pretty hard this year trying to get up to the top. How has your team progressed since the start of the season?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, the Car of Tomorrow is certainly different challenges. We're racing at a track we've never been to. But for us, the start of the season was tough even though -- I mean, even when we would get involved in a wreck, we weren't running very well. But really for the last six weeks, our cars have been dramatically faster and they've been able to make the adjustments and I've been able to tell them what I think the car needs and they've been able to make the right adjustments to it. That's what racing's all about, is to be able to communicate. You say what the car's doing and have them able to give you the right adjustments. The team has just done a really good job of that recently.
Q. Are there any improvements you're looking to change towards the end of year with the team to make it better or worse or whatever the case might be?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, just being able to finish that last two or three percent of the races. We've run really well the last four weeks. Gosh, comes down to 10 laps to go and we haven't been able to put it all together. Certainly some of that has been in our control and some of it hasn't.
But the hardest part of this is getting your cars fast, and they've been able to get my cars where they have good speed and we're able to race.
Q. It's so rough on you guys. With the weekend you had last weekend, what do you do to get that out of your mind? How do you take those unfortunate incidents? We've been told that you enjoy playing tennis. Would that do it?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I've only played tennis a couple of times, so someone might have told you a story there. I like golf, though.
Q. They said you hit the ball pretty good.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, that's good. I mean, I've only played tennis a couple times.
Q. How do you then get something like that out of your mind? You have a big race coming up now.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think if you feel like you've made a huge mistake, then sometimes those are hard to get out of your head or out of your mind. But, you know, in racing, sometimes things happen and you don't have control over them and there's not really a lot you can do.
You can't worry about that. I mean, I don't worry about that. I've messed up before in a race and it's worn me out. But stuff that happened this weekend, I couldn't help any of that, so I don't worry about it much.
Q. There was some talk this week about new testing rules in NASCAR, going to wide-open testing. I was wondering how you felt about it?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, if they do that, it will make every team have to test every week before the race. You'll go there the 10 days before, whatever they allow, and test for a couple days before the race. You couldn't afford to give that up.
I can't believe that they would let that happen, but they might. If they do, then all the organizations will just have to start full-time test teams for each team. You'll go and do your testing and then go on to the racetrack the following day or two.
Q. This fall Talladega is going to celebrate its 40th anniversary. We're asking drivers about memorable experiences they had at Talladega. You made your first start here in the fall of 2002. Can you talk about that day, maybe any memorable experiences or emotions you had from that day.
JAMIE McMURRAY: You know, I remember being really nervous that weekend, filling in for Sterling. I never stayed in a motorhome before. It was like my first weekend to stay in a motorhome at the racetrack. Just, you know, really nervous all weekend.
Then in the race we actually ran really well. It was ironic, but my first Cup start, that race ran green the entire time. I don't know that I'd ever made a green-flag pit stop before in the Busch Series up to that point. All of a sudden, the entire race we made green-flag pit stops. Then we ran out of gas like, I don't know a lap before the last pit stop. Didn't finish very well. But the car ran really well that day.
I guess the green-flag pit stops are the things that I remember.
HERB BRANHAM: Jamie McMurray, defending champion of this Saturday night's race at Daytona, best of luck to you.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thank you.
HERB BRANHAM: We're joined now by the president of Daytona International Speedway, Robin Braig.
Robin, February your track was obviously a big show with the 50th running of the Daytona 500. What is the 50th running of the annual July race going to be like?
ROBIN BRAIG: Greetings, everyone, from the World Center of Racing. We're looking forward to another great, historic event. As you know the France family was thinking far ahead when they built this track, not only put their Super Bowl event but their mid-summer classic, as well. It will be its 50th running, as you say.
We have a great lineup starting next Thursday featuring what we truly are, the World Center of Racing, with the Porche 250 and the Rolex Daytona Prototype cars on the track. It's always fun to have them under the lights. Winn-Dixie 250 with the Nationwide Series and the grand-daddy with our new sponsor with the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night. It's going to be an exciting night, followed by fireworks. If you're a track promotor like we are here in Daytona, there's nothing better than having an event on the nation's holiday in Central Florida where we have beaches and Disney, SeaWorld. This town truly does know how to host tourism.
We're prepared, my staff is prepared, the track looks beautiful still. A little gold left on her from the 500. We're looking forward to a great event.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll open it up to questions now for Robin.
Q. Daytona has many events throughout the year racing and shows besides the NASCAR stuff. When the Daytona 500 comes, the Coke Zero 400, can you describe your emotions and thoughts as the big day arrives.
ROBIN BRAIG: Well, it's fortunately the best of International Speedway Corp's personnel and most seasoned veterans work at Daytona International Speedway. I've been here about 10 years and I'm short compared to the big-timers that have been here for years and years. My point is that I don't have much angst. I don't have much nervousness or apprehension going into any event, whether it's the Daytona 500 or Coke Zero 400 or bike week. The staff has planned ahead. This town welcomes our traffic patterns and our community residents and citizens look forward to the event. Our airport is nearby. Our freeways are nearby. It's just a real joy to see the planning unfold before your eyes.
As Bill, Jr., told me, Just stay out of their way, and stay off the radio. He gave me a hand-held radio one year. When I reached for it, he took it away from me and said, Hey, just don't talk on it. I think that pretty much describes how I was informed and continue to run this track. Just let the work unfold and respect the people that know truly what they're doing.
Q. It's been about 20 years since the race carried the Firecracker name. Is there still romance associated with the name and this race?
ROBIN BRAIG: Absolutely. The old-timers, emails, we constantly do our archives and come across the Firecracker. As you may or may not know, I used to work at Budweiser in their sponsorship department. Entitlements of different sporting events was very important to our sponsors. I'll tell you what, there's nothing harder to shake than the Firecracker 400 name, despite the millions and millions that our friends in New York gave us and our friends in Atlanta, Georgia, are giving us now.
We do everything we can. It's not a new concept. The world of NASCAR, we're somewhat cluttered with sponsors. But we embrace that. We like the Firecracker 400 and the Richard Petty memories, the visions that come with Ronald Reagan, all that comes along with the Firecracker 400. We embrace it and are proud of our heritage. But it's the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coke.
Q. Two of the biggest and best things in Florida is racing at Daytona and Walt Disneyworld. Has there ever been any kind of talk with the difficult any company to get more involved with Daytona and NASCAR?
ROBIN BRAIG: Yes, absolutely. In fact, about three or four years ago we had a Mickey Mouse pace car. We obviously are interested in the 75 million visitors that come to Central Florida, most of them attracted to Disney. We desperately want to get our arms around that data bank, that invitation list, that mailing list, and get their people to come over and see our track, whether it's during an event time or non-event time.
While Disney is extremely proud of their presentation and quite frankly at times don't need any help, and I say that with all due respect, they really don't need us to get people to come to their wonderful attraction. Can't blame them if they don't want them to leave their grounds and spend their money elsewhere.
There are great partners in Central Florida. Disney is one. We've really enjoyed SeaWorld partnership and Universal. They have been great with doing co-promotions and those will continue on, as well. As well as the Kennedy Space Center, where we just had Ryan Newman down there.
There's plenty of partners in the area. Often Disney is the cream of the crop and sometimes don't need us as bad as we need them.
Q. For guys and gals just getting into the sport, can you explain to them what's big difference is between Daytona and the rest the racetracks that are on our circuit?
ROBIN BRAIG: I'm stealing some pages out of Talladega's big and bold, what they're known for. But I think whenever I bring someone to this facility, the first thing they see is the size of it. It starts out by the freeway and it seems like it doesn't end till you get down by the beach.
Then once you get inside the facility, come through the tunnel, you can almost feel the history. Lake Lloyd in the middle, of course these high banks and the gray pavement, we put a touch of modernization with our Fan Zone, the garages, all accessible to our fans.
Somehow we've been able to, with the help of our great design team, have been able to keep our wonderful history as well as make it comfortable for our modern entertainment dollar, which is very much sought over in this market here in Central Florida.
It's more about the bigness, the boldness, the historical value of it once. We take folks from the Daytona 500 experience, they get a chance to see some of our history, then finally just knowing this is the France family's home, this is their town, this is really their state. And if you are a NASCAR fan and on your bucket list, certainly Daytona 500, experiencing some of our racing, is one of the things that must be fulfilled.
Q. We have a lot of old-time fans, watching NASCAR since it started. Has Daytona International Speedway and the state of Florida ever thought about doing a retroclassic with the old type cars on the beach again at any point in time?
ROBIN BRAIG: Well, we certainly have. Bill, Jr., drug us all down there about five years ago and brought some of the old cars back. He came down and held court, as he did often. That was enjoyable. With the 50th running of the Daytona 500, we had all the past champions back.
To be quite honest with you, out of respect for our beaches, the environmental laws have changed over the years. We've got a lot of issues with our hurricanes and the sand, the sea turtles. There's just a whole list of things that go along with trying to do something in an environmental sensitive area that our beaches have now become.
It's not as easy. We can do some fun photo shoots, things like that. But rip-roaring around in that sand, those days are probably gone.
HERB BRANHAM: Robin Braig, thank you very much for helping us out today. Good luck this weekend at the World Center of Racing.
ROBIN BRAIG: Thank you.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you to all the media. Nice turnout today as always. We truly appreciate the coverage.
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