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February 23, 2017
Daytona Beach, Florida
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the second‑place finisher in tonight's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can‑Am Duel No.1, Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi.
Jamie, exciting race out there tonight. Could you tell me just what it was like battling with the 4 there for the second‑place finish.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I mean, getting to have the caution with eight laps to go kind of calmed everything down. You go back to a restart, you know it's going to take two or three laps to get up to speed, get everything settled.
The fact I was on the bottom I felt was good. Seemed like the outside row would get split and be three‑wide. So the bottom would have a little more momentum for a few laps. I thought getting to restart third was a great place.
Honestly, I got a really good run going into three I think from the 6 car. I thought I was going to be able to have enough of a push to get beside the 24, but the leader, he just kind of kept pushing him further out. It was hard to break that plane and get beside him.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the floor for questions.
Q. Jamie, with running behind Chase tonight, obviously the leader has the opportunity to block both lanes and make moves. A lot of you guys, when you're up there, veterans, seem like you're very fluid, it's very smooth. Seems like with him, because he's still new to this, he still has a little bit to learn, a little bit less fluid. Can you talk about what you saw, and if this is the Daytona 500, does he get some of the breaks he got tonight going back and forth?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I thought he did a really good job. I kind of understand what you're saying.
You know, when you're the leader, it doesn't really matter where you're running, you run 90% of the race looking in the rearview mirror. You're looking at the lanes, trying to decide which lane looks like it has the biggest run. Then also listening to your spotter, hoping he can verify what you're seeing.
When he says the opposite, you have to make a decision of which one to block. I thought Chase did an awesome job. It doesn't matter who it is, at some point we all make a bad decision out there. I made a couple tonight. Was fortunate it didn't cause a wreck. But that's what happens at places like this.
Yeah, I mean, I thought Chase did a great job tonight.
Q. I know points were on the line, but how much was that like pre‑season football where people aren't going to show maybe everything they want to show for Sunday?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I would say that everyone raced as hard as they could. I did. It's a little different at a place like this. I think any time we get in the cars, you start driving, you race as hard as you can.
I don't think it's a fair comparison to football. It's quite a bit different. It's a race. It paid points. We're all here to race and do the best we can. I don't think it has anything to do with that, yeah.
Q. There were several comments about people thinking that the racing was perhaps a little better, more aggressive than last year. Did you notice any difference in that regard? Could points have played a role in that?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I mean, I don't think it has anything to do with points. My opinion, before we came down here, we put a smaller plate on. I thought that was going to make it worse racing. Seems like the more power we have, the better we do.
But the most interesting thing that I saw tonight that I was encouraged by is the leader still has an advantage, but the cars in second or third or fourth and fifth, a couple rows back, were able to get pretty big runs.
Not everybody could get by the leader, but you were able to get pretty big runs and the leader was having to do a lot of blocking.
The other thing that was different to me is the top wasn't the place to be. At one point everyone started moving to the top. No one wants to do that. But I moved to the bottom, a couple guys went with me, we started making ground up. I thought that was great, the fact that it wasn't going to get single file. It tried to at one point. It only took three or four cars to get the bottom lane moving again.
It had nothing to do with the points. I don't know if it had anything to do with the plate. I think some of them are better than others. I don't know if anyone has the answer as to why.
Q. Jamie, I know that typically at a restrictor plate track, you say anyone can win. Does it feel to you that there are a lot more serious contenders, that it could be this team, that team, more so maybe than this years past?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I think that the Penske cars are still the two. If you have to make a list, that's the top of the list. Both of those guys are really good plate racers and their cars are really good. It seems like Doug has done an incredible job with their engines again.
In the Clash, I kind of thought Ford was the best car. Tonight I didn't see that. The 2 was good. The 22 was obviously pretty good. I thought that my car or Chase's car was really good. Obviously Matt and Kyle are always really fast.
But it doesn't seem like there's a clear favorite. We come down here a lot of years. You kind of pick a guy. If he finishes, he's going to be there in the end.
I think there's 10 guys that have a legitimate shot to win this year.
Q. Tonight was the first night that you had been in the car. You last practiced on Saturday. You put on a great show tonight without practice. Does it kind of show that maybe practice is a little bit overplayed?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, here and Talladega would be the exception to the rule. I think everywhere else we would like to have some practice. This is a place we've run the same setups. The rear springs are basically issued to you. I think you have like a 50‑pound rate difference in right rear spring. The shocks are issued to you in the rear. There's not a lot of setup changes that happen here. The rules are what we've had forever.
This is a little bit different. I don't know that anyone was really worried when practice got rained out today. To me, if you weren't in the race on Sunday, then maybe it was going to be nice to get out and do a little bit of drafting because we haven't been in the cars in a little while. I didn't draft at all. When they threw the green flag in the race on Sunday, a couple corners just kind of feels like you've been in the car.
This is a little different scenario than what we would have at Atlanta and Martinsville and those places.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie, thanks for joining us. Good luck.
We are joined by Corey LaJoie, driver of the No. 84 Dustless Blasting Toyota for BK Racing. A former member of the NASCAR Next Program who will now be racing in the Daytona 500.
What is it like for you to hear those words and to be able to say you're going to be racing in The Great American Race?
COREY LAJOIE: It's pretty damn cool. I mean, obviously wrecking Reed wasn't how I drew it up. It certainly wasn't on purpose. I was just trying to fill a hole. He didn't think I should be there.
Essentially, back to the practice question you asked Jamie, that was my first‑ever practice in a Cup car. I was learning every lap. I was doing the best I could up till the end when they started getting dicey and I knew I was locked in. I just kind of rode and made sure they didn't wad us up.
I'm sure the Daytona 500 is going to be another practice session for me. It's all new to me. I didn't even know where to go for the drivers meeting or nothing. I'm learning this just like somebody the first time I've been around here since I was a rugrat. But it's pretty cool being here as a Cup driver making my first Daytona 500. It's pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. Corey, obviously Reed was somewhat upset. When you know he's in front of you, is it any more nerve‑wracking because you know if you have contact, it's not going to be the way you want to do it?
COREY LAJOIE: I don't really have an answer to that question. I just had to beat him. I didn't want to be sipping Margaritas on the beach on Sunday. I wanted to be out there racing.
If that was my mom, I'd probably spin her out to make the Daytona 500, too. That's just frank. I'm not going on Reed's Christmas card list this year, but that's all right.
Q. Corey, at some point during the race you knew Reed was no longer a factor to race his way in. You knew that Brendan Gaughan had the best speed among the other guys. Did you think you sort of had it made after Reed was done?
COREY LAJOIE: Well, I mean, yeah, I did technically. That's why I didn't really get up there in the mix at the end of it. If I would have tore my car up. We definitely wouldn't have made the race. I just kind of lagged back. It eats at your competitive side watching everybody else dice it up, but I'll save that for Sunday.
Q. I heard you briefly say on TV, how did this ride come about? You were in your dad's shop and...
COREY LAJOIE: That was a short script version for TV. There was a lot of politicking on my end and a lot of people's end.
You know, Ron could have put lots of guys in it. Casey Mears, the list is long for guys he could have put in it. Obviously he likes giving young drivers a shot with Matt, Alex Bowman, the list goes on.
I was politicking very hard. I don't have a whole lot of starts in any division. I've been part‑timing in everything. Limited XFINITY starts, a couple Truck starts, a couple Cup starts.
I know I can do it in the right opportunity. I politicked very hard. I didn't feel like I was making a whole lot of headway with it. I texted Jimmie Johnson. I said, Hey, I feel like if the seven‑time champ comes two weeks removed from the seventh championship makes a text, it could carry some weight.
He said, Oh, yeah, no problem.
So he called him up, talked for about an hour. Two days later the call came to me. Hey, this is the call you've been waiting for. Let's go.
It's still only part‑time. BK is working hard to try to sell sponsorship to fill more races, but right now all I care about is Sunday.
Q. Some of us know about your struggle. You scrapped and clawed and tried and dug and begged. Now you've qualified for the Daytona 500. How do you encapsulate the ride?
COREY LAJOIE: Man, there was times I wanted to stop. But it just all worked out, you know. The big man has got a plan.
THE MODERATOR: Corey, congratulations on racing your way into the Daytona 500, and best of luck on Sunday.
COREY LAJOIE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by the driver who is currently the points leader of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and that is Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, who won tonight's Can‑Am Duel race No.1.
Talk us through that accomplishment.
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, it was definitely a great way to start the season. As I said on TV, I know it's just a Duel win. You obviously wish it was Sunday and counted towards the Playoffs, but it still means a lot to me. Means a lot to our team. Happy to have NAPA colors on tonight. Had some big steam under the hood, which is a huge factor in keeping us out front.
So glad we were able to race and stay aggressive and battle those guys. Hopefully we can dial it in just a little better for Sunday, give it another shot.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Chase, I know you're always very modest. Can you say that you feel like you should be considered a favorite for the Daytona 500?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, I definitely think we have a shot at it. I mean, if I didn't feel that way, like I always say, I'd stay home. I feel like we have a shot on Sunday. I feel like we had a shot before we got down here.
Tonight's result hasn't changed my opinion on that. I'm looking forward to it obviously. You love to get that qualifying spot on Sunday, but we really earned it tonight, to start on the front row, which is even better.
Just a great way to start the season. Cool for our team. We're excited for Sunday and getting the season going.
Q. I think it was early in the race, either Alan or Eddie asked you about people drafting with you. You said, Same old, same old. Did you feel that got better over the course of the race? Do you feel like you'll get some help on Sunday?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I think it just depends. Obviously guys are going to do what they feel like is best for them. That's just the fact of life when it comes to racing.
You don't blame 'em for doing their own thing. Sometimes you just got to make your own‑‑ kind of do your own thing, make your own way. You certainly have to have some people go with you at some point to move forward.
Definitely I felt like after that lap 25 caution, I'm not sure if it was how the lanes lined up, the lanes that opened up for us, that we were able to push our way up through there. The big thing is we had a good car.
I think as the race went along, a couple guys caught onto that and they thought by helping me they might help themselves.
It's all what you can do to help yourself. If they don't feel like helping is going to help them, they're not going to help you. That's just the way it is.
Q. You mentioned in Victory Lane that you learned a lot from Keselowski; said you haven't perfected things. One thing it seems is he's able to really block both lanes in a fluid manner. How comfortable are you doing that? How much more aggressive do you think it's going to be Sunday?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I really don't know that it changes a whole lot. Obviously the intensity is going to be up racing for a Daytona 500. I'm not sure. You just don't really know, I guess is the best way to answer that.
Because the way the lanes form, it's just power in numbers. It's a power in what cars are lined up in what row, how they're stacked against you, whether they're two‑wide or three‑wide behind you.
There certainly are guys that do a good job. Once they get out front they're tough to get by. We see that all the time at these places.
No, I don't think I have it perfected by any means. I learned a lot about it tonight. I got some great experience being able to stay out front in those final laps. I know it wasn't for a 500 win, but I feel like those guys were still trying to get some runs. I'm sure that will be amped up Sunday. I think it was similar to what you'll see.
Q. In a general sense, what did you pick up in learning about blocking tonight?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I feel like really one of the biggest things I picked up on is who the players were tonight, who is going to be good on Sunday, what cars to look out for.
I learned a couple things I'm going to keep in the back of my mind. That's the biggest thing. It's obviously very circumstantial. It's going to change time to time as you come back to these plate races. Some guys are going to get better, some guys are going to fall off.
It was good to learn about that. I'm eager to get back and see how good these guys do. I know with as good as our motor was running tonight, I feel like Dale is going to be tough.
THE MODERATOR: Chase, congratulations on the race win and good luck on Sunday in The Great American Race.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thanks, guys. Have a good one.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports