Jamie McMurray drove the No. 1 Cessna/McDonald’s Chevrolet to a second-place finish in the first of two Can-Am Duel races on Thursday night, that sets the field for the Daytona 500. McMurray started 12th and spent most of the 60-lap race mixing it up among the leaders. Even when the No. 1 Chevy got shuffled out of the draft, McMurray was able to muscle his way back to the front. The second-place finish secured a third-place starting for Sunday’s 59th running of the Great American Race.
Post-race press conference (courtesy of Team Chevy)
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 year’s 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.