Jamie McMurray May be NASCAR’s New Science Guy
By Mary Jo Buchanan (DOVER, Del.) – Move over Bill Nye, @JamieMcMurray may just be NASCAR’s new science guy, crediting all of the science in the Chip Ganassi Racing garage for his past three consecutive top-ten finishes.
“When I look at this year, everything has scienced-out,” the driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet said. “The reasons are from lots of testing and the simulation program, our wind tunnel testing – everything is known of why it’s better and why we are running better.”
In addition to the ‘sciencing out’ of his cars, McMurray also credits consistency to his success of putting together those good consecutive finishes.
“Our cars have been good really all year long,” McMurray said. “Early in the year I feel like we ran well but couldn’t really put the whole race together. Just seems like the last five or six races we have been able to run well at the beginning of the race and put a finish together.”
“So, we have just been a little more consistent.”
While McMurray has found consistency, some of which has come as a result of the science utilized by his team, as well as the chemistry with teammate @KyleLarsonRacin, he refuses to look back with regret on his inability to make the Chase this year.
“I don’t live my life on ‘what if’s,” McMurray said in the media center at Dover International Speedway. “We have that every weekend in racing. Our group has run extremely well all year long, and the last few weeks it has been showcased more.”
“The part I am most encouraged about our season is in 2010, when we won the 500, the Brickyard, Charlotte and Watkins Glen, I think there were a lot of unknowns. Why were we running so well? They really hadn’t changed a lot from 2009 and 2010 was just a really good year for us. Some of it had to do with the engines as I think the ECR Engines were the best at that time. But there were a lot of unknowns at our shop of ‘why are we running so much better?’ “
“So, that is awesome leading into next year, because we know why,” McMurray continued. “And they know the areas that they need to work on to make the cars better.”
McMurray is definitely ready for next year’s science experiment, especially since he participated in the test at Michigan with the new rules package just announced.
“So when we did the test at Michigan, it was mostly about adding more down force to the car and then they had a run where they put what most of us thought was going to be too small of a spoiler on the car,” McMurray said. “And they completely removed the radiator pan in the front to try to balance it out.”
“I think most of us were shocked that we could have taken even more off,” McMurray continued. “So when the rules were announced, we were hoping to get more down force removed but when I look at that, if they had put it in my hands, I don’t think I would have taken that big of a chance either of removing all the down force from the car. I think we are going to lean and creep more toward taking more down force off the car over the next couple of years. But we have to develop a car that is soft enough to run well at the beginning have give-up.”
“But I think baby steps are better than just a Hail Mary at it.”
McMurray acknowledged that NASCAR’s science experiment of the new rules package for 2015 will present some challenges for the drivers themselves.
“Well, it’s not going to feel as secure or as comfortable but we have to create off throttle time,” McMurray said. “When you go to Michigan and you only let off the gas for one second in each corner, the guy behind you just has no chance of passing you.”
“It’s hard,” McMurray continued. “So when you removed down force it not only creates off throttle time but braking. All the sudden you had to use the brakes because you were sliding up the race track.”
“Removing the down force is ultimately about creating off throttle time. All the drivers feel that that the more off throttle time we have, the more passing we are going to have.”
Although McMurray understands that rule changes are abounding, he also said that everyone in the garage is in the same boat as far as the science project about to take place for next year.
“I don’t think anyone is freaking out in the garage because we all know that kind of direction and what it’s going to be,” McMurray said. “I think the teams already have an idea of what that is going to do.”
“As far as the rules changes for next year, even though it’s a couple of inches on the spoiler and on the radiator pan, I don’t think that is going to change who is running well and who is not,” McMurray continued. “It’s really going to be just about getting the balance of the car back.”
“So, I am really not concerned about that because we know why we are running so much better this year versus last year and the year before.”
One of the most important elements of the science experiment, at least from McMurray’s perspective, is the crew chief, which is an even more important ingredient given his is a rookie.
“Yeah, Keith (Rodden, crew chief) has had just a great way of getting to where we need to be,” McMurray said. “My favorite part of Keith is that he has an answer to every question. I think that he is already thinking about things before I am.”
“So, when I ask Keith a question, I feel that he already has an answer to that and he is a really sharp guy and he has done an amazing job this year,” McMurray continued. “Being a first year crew chief there are a lot of obstacles that I don’t think you realize when you become a crew chief that come up, where when you are the engineer that is on the crew chief’s hands.”
“Keith has done an amazing job as a first year crew chief and I only sense that getting better.”
While McMurray noted the ‘sciencing up’ of the sport, he also has a philosophical perspective on it as well, giving a nod to momentum, at least in the case of both his car and his teammate’s in the past few weeks.
“Racing goes in waves,” McMurray said. “When things aren’t going well, you can’t do anything right. But when things are going well, everything you do is right.”
“Fortunately, for our group, not just the No. 1, but the No. 42 car, we are on the high side of that and it just seems like the changes we make each week and the developments they come up with each week are better.”
“I’m looking forward to really pretty much any track we go to.”
EMAIL MARY JO AT firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW MARY JO ON TWITTER: @maryjobuchanan