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February 7, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the media center by tonight's second-place finisher, Jamie McMurray. Tell us about your run out there tonight.
JAMIE McMURRAY: It will be a long night. I'll think about what maybe I should have done different as I go to sleep tonight.
I moved up at the end. I'm not going to talk about the rest of the race, because it seems irrelevant when you get down to the last lap. I'm not going to tell you how my pit stops and all went. I moved up to block Kevin. When I did, I didn't go all the way up against the wall. I thought I was far enough up against the wall that he couldn't fit. My reason was I assumed I could kind of slingshot back to the inside and I didn't want to have to have another four feet to block him. His car just fit through there. I wouldn't have bet it would have.
It's a really good night for us. It's the first race that Donnie has crew chiefed for me again in the last three years. He did a really good job. Everybody did a good job. We won here in July a couple years ago. Last year I felt like this was one of my worst tracks. Car did not drive very well. Just never could really get a good feel for it. It was the first year with the Car of Tomorrow at this place. But they did a really good job. The setup we unloaded with, the few small adjustments we made in practice, really made our car good, drive well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. You really started to turn things up at the end of last year. You mentioned you got Donnie back. Great way to start the year. How important is it for you to really continue what you had going?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, last year really when we ended the season, I was saying coming in here, I love the media center, because when you get to come to the media center, you did well. I got to come to the media center after qualifying, and I think every race, the last four. I think when you sit all winter and you have that, I was actually a little bit nervous before the race started tonight, just anticipating wanting to get back in the car after not being in it for the last couple months.
After practice last night, I knew how well my car was driving. I knew if we could stay out of trouble, we'd have a chance to win tonight.
It's great. I'm excited for my whole team because we ran so well last year at the end. You just want to make it all happen this year. You can't really force that. It's hard to explain when things are going well how everything just kind of flows. It's easier to run well right now than it's ever been for me just 'cause everything's working.
Q. With all the inordinate beating and banging that was going on out there, do you think some of those cars that survived that late to challenge, you, 24, 48, 29, they were all beat up, two years ago with the old car, could they have survived that kind of dents and dings aerodynamically to be challengers late in the race?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think here you could have because the front end of the car they put this big steel plate. You have to hit hard enough that it knocks the engine out to dent the fenders and stuff now. We started that four or five years ago. Maybe here because the front of the cars are so tough.
Honestly, the leader is kind of a sitting duck with this car. It's cool because you can pass him. With the other car, if there would have been a 'green-white-checkered', I don't think you would have seen a pass because you couldn't get the shove and the pushes that you can with this car.
When you're the leader, you get pushed so far out in front, you actually have to drag the brake a little bit so you don't get a big enough gap or too big of a gap between you and the pack because you know they're going to come. You can't move up to block them, they're coming so fast.
I did a pretty good job of that. But it's hard when you come to the white flag to let off or to like drag the brake a little bit. It's tough to do. I let those guys get too big of a gap on me.
Q. Do you think this race would have been different if there had been winter testing?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don't know. I know that when you come here for winter testing and they make the first set of runs, everybody goes out and makes their mock-up runs, the same guys come back here and qualify well that are fast that first time off the truck. There's not a tremendous amount that you can do to this car. The other car you changed crush panels in it, they did air boxes, moved the fenders. They did all kinds of stuff. When you would see testing, the cars would be gray, then they would have separate panels put on them. You can't really do that with this car.
So I don't think it would have been dramatically different. When you come here and you test and you do your race runs, the cars typically drive really well because it's so cool and there's not a lot of rubber on the track. When you come back for the race, it seems like they never drove as well.
I don't know. I don't think it would have been dramatically different. It seemed like a great race to me. I don't know what it looked like for you guys. It seemed like the racing was really good.
Q. About the racing being real good, we had a winter where all the headlines were about layoffs and struggles in the economy. How big was this to come out and put on a good show and get people excited about racing?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I think it's huge. When we did driver intros, I looked up in the stands, it didn't look like a huge crowd. But it is the Shootout. I know we typically don't have as many cars. When you look up there, you take that for granted I think sometimes in our sport in relation to maybe IRL and Grand-Am, some of the other series, they don't sell out the stands. Ever since I've been in the sport, they've been selling out Bristol and all these racetracks.
I think with the economy the way it is, with the amount of layoffs, it's almost depressing right now to turn the news on. I get up at 6 a.m., turn the news on. Every morning it seems like the headline is how many people were laid off from major corporations.
I think it will be a tough year for us and for the tracks to sell tickets. But I know there's been a little bit of drama or controversy about the track promotors wanting the drivers to help out. Maybe that wasn't worded right, when the promotor said it the first time. For me at least, my opinion is that I would help out what I could to sell tickets and to do something right now to make sure that you're going to have the sellouts for the next 10 years or 20 years, however long that is, until the economy gets turned around in the next year or so.
Q. I know some drivers were predicting a wild night beforehand. Did anything surprise you about tonight? Was it what you expected? Is it what you might see later in the week?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, when we race in the daytime, it's going to be a little bit different. I think you'll see a little bit more -- especially when we get to run 40 laps on a set of tires. When the race started, it wasn't necessarily the fastest cars in the front, there maybe were some faster cars in the back, what was a little bit edgy was the guys that started in the front, cars didn't drive very well, they would have to slow down a little bit getting in the corner and somebody would shoot the gap on the outside. It was sucking those guys around. Bobby Labonte, for three laps, he was trying to get out of the way, and he couldn't. I don't know how he didn't spin out all the way, but he didn't.
I believe when it gets hot, it's going to be worse there. Handling will be huge. The 500 starts in the daytime. Seems like it spreads out a little bit in the beginning. Once we put our last two or three sets of tires on, the sun has gone down, I think it will be really good racing like you saw tonight.
Q. Donnie said it felt like the old band was back again with you in the car. Did it feel like that to you, like you just were working with him last November?
JAMIE McMURRAY: You know, yeah. And it really -- for me it happened at Phoenix when we did the tire test, getting in the car for the very first time. You do a radio check. Donnie, can you hear me? The first time I heard him say, Yeah, 10-4. It's so weird to hear his voice again. Lauren is the same way. I was really comfortable with Lauren spotting for me all those years. To get to have both of them back at the same time, I mean, it's very comforting.
I don't know. It's really hard for me to explain to you the comfort or the confidence that I have in those two guys. I feel like when we ran at Ganassi, we ran really well. I didn't think we had near as good of equipment as what we have at Roush Fenway. I spent the whole winter -- I don't think it does any good to do media day and to do these interviews and blow smoke up everyone's ass about how great it's going to be. I think it's better to come out and do well.
I am so anxious to kind of get the season underway, get through those first four or five races, get to see you guys hopefully a lot.
Q. It looked to me like all the cars were out of control out there. I don't know if it's because it's the Shootout, with a loose setup. I think they were changing tires after seven laps. Tony even did the last two laps on a new set of tires. What was the deal on the cars looking so out of control? Were they really that out of control?
JAMIE McMURRAY: My car did not feel out of control. They bounce around a lot. That's good. I mean, I told someone that the other day. They said they should repave the racetrack. I said, God, no. That's what makes Daytona so good. The huge bump in turn one. That's what makes the good-handling cars shine, if you hit those bumps.
There were some that didn't drive well tonight. I think that's just fine. I think that's great. Sometimes you come to these plate races, Talladega is probably an example, you get in the back and you can't pass because everybody's car drives well. I think is fine that not everyone is driving perfect and you have to get your car to handle and it's a little more work for the driver.
Q. With all those Chevrolets back there behind you on that last lap, did you almost kind of feel like the cavalry was coming after you?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I felt pretty good because it was only a 'green-white-checkered' and I had Jeff on the outside and Jimmie behind me. I thought there's no way in hell that Jimmie was going to be able to get to Jeff. I knew he would have to push me.
You just never know. I said something to Lauren with a few to go. I'm like, We've got a car that can win. When we came to the 'green-white-checkered', it's just going to be who gets the line to push them the best at the right time. The cars are so stacked up on the restart.
I didn't really care about who necessarily, whether it was a Ford or a Chevy. I wanted somebody that maybe liked me, you know.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie, thank you.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Tony Stewart. Tony, tell us about your run.
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I got to ask Jamie McMurray. Apparently he was talking about me.
No, I'm happy with it. Wasn't the prettiest third place we've ever got. But if there was ever a day to take one, this was the day for sure.
We had nothing to lose on that last caution. We were able to come in and get four. We saw how it paid off for the 11 and 24. We had the luxury, since we were at the tail end of the pack, being able to pick which line we wanted, knowing that if there was any kind of gap at all, with fresh tires, we were going to be able to go wherever we wanted and have enough grip. That's basically what we did. We just picked whichever hole we wanted, and we were able to get up to a good spot. Got lucky being on the bottom when the wreck happened at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Been a lot of bad news over the winter about layoffs, economic hard times. Seemed to be a very entertaining race tonight. How big was it to get the season started off on a big note for the sport?
TONY STEWART: I think it was big, obviously. I mean, I think one of the funniest things I've laughed about the whole day, as odd as it's going to sound, when the national anthem was going on, and the lady's microphone kept going in and out, and the crowd picked it up from there. The whole crowd was singing the national anthem. Didn't miss a beat. Like you didn't even care if her mic came back on or not. Bless her heart. It was one of those things, like this sport is going to be all right.
The fans were here. Fans were pumped up about the Shootout tonight. It just kind of made me smile, made me laugh, made me forget that I was going to get ready to get in my own racecar for the first time.
If that's any sign of what's to come with the economy and the fans, we got some dedicated fans and we got fans that, no matter what the circumstances are, they're going to rise to the occasion obviously.
But as far as us tonight, I mean, you couldn't have asked for a better night. Like I said, it wasn't that we were the third place car. We ended up finishing third, but we weren't the third place car. We had I think probably one of the top five best handling cars out there. We got some things we need to work on. It's given us a direction on what we need to concentrate on this week before the qualifying race. Obviously, if we haven't figured it out by then, we got two more days to work on it.
I'm really proud of Darian. I'm proud of the guys. They had really good stops tonight. As odd as it's going to sound, it almost seemed like we worked together before. I was really surprised in the confidence I heard from him every time the caution came out about what we were going to do, how much of a change we were going to make. He really impressed me tonight.
You never know what's gonna happen that first night with a new guy. It really put me at ease I guess the whole night. Just hearing his confidence on the radio gave me confidence. We led laps tonight. We were a factor at parts of the night. I think everybody at some point of the night was vulnerable and able to fall to the back and get freight-trained.
We led laps, we ran in the top five a lot. We were in the back a lot, too. At the end we ended up where we needed to be.
Q. Did it feel like the dawn of a new era for you or just like old times?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. It was like business as usual while you were in the car. Like I said, when we led those laps, I wasn't thinking anything about it. Didn't seem like it was any different than when we were in the 20 car in the past.
It wasn't till the caution that came after we got the lead there that it was, man, we just led some laps in our first race with our own stuff.
It's a proud moment when you realize that you've seen everything happen firsthand at the shop and seen it build and develop over the winter, to see how it got here. It's not just disappear for the winter and go off and mess around on vacation or whatever, then show up at the track and all of a sudden you go to work again. It's been a little more detailed than that for me this winter. I guess it hit a little harder when we led those first laps.
Q. The tone of this race seemed to be like it was on edge, waiting for stuff to happen, it happened. Did it seem like cars were bumping around the a little more than usual to you or was it about the same?
TONY STEWART: I felt like for the most part it was the same. I think we noticed last night between the two sessions, race practices yesterday, that the second session, everybody had more grip. Any time you get more grip, guys are going to start putting it in places that are going to make them get edgy.
What surprised me was how many times guys could go through the middle and not be totally out of control. Guys got their cars driving pretty good to when they got in the center, they were able to go on and not be waiting on the wreck to happen.
It's just a lot of movement around there. This isn't the widest track that we run on by any means. It gets pretty crowded. Especially when you get three-wide there. Even at the end, I think on the last lap, we were four-wide at one point in one and two. That's something you very, very rarely see.
As much as it just seemed like it was half out of control, it seemed like everybody was in control, too. Any time they get more comfortable, guys are just going to push that much harder to get them where they are on the edge. That's basically what happened.
Q. What do you think the difference is? I think we can anticipate the middle portion is somewhat sane, fairly insane end of the race. How much difference does it make between running in the daytime and running at night?
TONY STEWART: The thing I think I'm going to base this decision off of is what happened last year. Until it got dark, until that temperature and track temperature cooled down, guys had a hard time with the handling. You saw everybody kind of separate. Like you say, it was pretty much tame. But it was tame because guys didn't have good enough grip to get themselves in compromising positions.
I think it will be like that in the daytime. I'm sure Thursday will be a really good indication of that. Any time you get any temperature at this track, this track is very temperature sensitive, just like Indy and some of the other places we go to, Charlotte. Just seems like any time there's any kind of track temperature at all, everybody's cars slide around.
When it cools off, by that time, everybody has had all day to work on their cars, make adjustments. When the track cools off, you get close to those money laps, it definitely is going to get crazy again.
Q. It's one thing to get on the track yesterday for practice after a long off-season. A race like this, was that pretty much what you were hoping for to get those juices flowing, particularly in your situation?
TONY STEWART: I'll be honest. I just wanted to finish the race today. I wanted to get through the live pit stop, through the second segment of the race, and just kind of get everybody that chance to get through that first bit of the season. I mean, even if we didn't finish the race, as long as we got through that first pit stop, that was going to be good that we got those guys in that mode.
I wanted to stay out of trouble for the most part. It wasn't that we played it that way, and it wasn't that we played it safe. It's just that was my goal at the end of the day was, If we can finish this thing, we'll take whatever it gives us.
These last two days were really important for Darian and I to work together. I'm going to bed tonight with a lot of confidence that I didn't have coming into tonight, just because you just don't know. You don't know what it's gonna be like. This was our first test. I felt like Darian and I, the communication between us was very, very good. From that side of it, I'm real pleased with the result of that, and that gives us confidence going into not necessarily tomorrow, but when we come back on Wednesday and go back to race practice, that's gonna give us a lot of confidence, I think.
Q. You stopped for tires. You were running 13th. Is that going to be a strategy we look for in the 500? Do you feel half the guys are going to stop for tires?
TONY STEWART: It could happen that way, for sure. Obviously when Denny and Jeff came in and got their tires, they were able to blast back up through there, too. I think part of it's the draft, part of it's tires. Neither is a bad thing. But it definitely is gonna make guys think.
I don't think it's gonna be so much track position as you would think. But I think there's going to be guys that might gamble and try to stay out and get track position, knowing what little might be able to happen in two laps. Then there are guys going to be able to look back on the night and say these were two different situations where guys in the back took tires and it paid off for them.
I think it's probably going to be more the second case than the first case. I think you'll see guys gambling on coming in. I don't know how many guys tried two-tire stops today. Seemed like they all took four. I don't think you'll see a lot of two-tire stops. I think if they come, they'll come for four.
Q. There was a record number of lead changes and I believe a record number of cautions. Any opinions on why?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I think the record number of lead changes is a good thing, though, for sure. I can't really say that I know exactly why the record number of cautions. There's one thing. There's nobody I think that can leave today and say they didn't see an exciting race. Hopefully that's the way the whole season is going to be for all of us.
End of FastScripts