Tag:Jamie McMurray
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:44 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:18 am
 

Idle Thoughts: Pressure already on for some

By Pete Pistone


  Crew Members
(This scene has been all too familiar to Kasey Kahne in the first two weeks of the season - Getty Images)

Two races do not make a season by any means. However there is a group of drivers who come into Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway already in need of a good finish.

The opening weeks in Daytona and Phoenix have not gone very well for some high profile names most expected to be factors in 2012. While there is certainly time to get things back on track, you wouldn’t blame these drivers for perhaps grabbing that steering wheel a little tighter Sunday in Vegas:

 

Kasey Kahne

This was supposed to be the breakout year for Kahne who finally made the move to Hendrick Motorsports after his limbo season in 2011 at Red Bull. But so far Kahne has had nothing but trouble and a lot of damaged racecars to show for his effort. A crash-filled Speedweeks rolled into another accident for Kahne early in last Sunday’s Phoenix race knocking him from contention in a race he was considered a favorite to win. The usually calm Kahne was frustrated after his early exit at PIR.

"I've been so excited about it, and I was excited the whole offseason and couldn't wait for the season to get here," Kahne said. "I show up at Phoenix, we're the best car all day Friday, top two cars all day yesterday, would have been the same today. I just need to calm the (blank) down."

Crew chief Kenny Francis will help Kahne do just that and there’s no reason to write this team off just yet. A top ten here and a top five there should be all the No. 5 Hendrick team needs in the coming weeks to shake the disappointment of the early going and begin to fulfill the high preseason expectations.

 

A.J. Allmendinger

Penske Racing’s newest driver has also endured a crash-filled opening two races of the season and finds himself 25<sup>th</sup> in the standings. That’s not what the former Richard Petty Motorsports driver expected to happen when he got the call to drive for his hero Roger Penske.

"Honestly, it was a bit of a frustrating weekend especially on the heels of Daytona,” Allmendinger said after eventually finishing in position 18 Sunday in Phoenix but not before getting swept up in a multi-car crash earlier in the race. “I've always run well here, so I came in with my goal being a top five or top ten at least.  We just couldn't get the car dialed in from the start.”

What may compound Allmendinger’s issues going forward is Penske’s announcement to switch from Dodge to Ford in 2013. The company is now faced with the task of ramping up for next year only two races into the current campaign while trying to focus on Allmendinger and teammate Brad Keselowski this season. Allmendinger is working on a one year contract as well so the stress level may be on the rise in the No. 22 camp unless things turnaround quickly.
 

Jamie McMurray

The new season has been a repeat of the dismal campaign of a year ago that team owner Chip Ganassi referred to as pathetic. McMurray has dropped all the way to position 35 in the point standings and suffered through a pair of disappointing outings in Daytona and Phoenix. He survived a lap 134 tangle with Allmendinger and Paul Menard only to have his engine expire in the late stages of the race.

“I don't know the motor blew up again. I don't know what happened there. It started missing and started smoking and just quit running, tough day," McMurray said.

Those engine issues have to be disconcerting to the Ganassi team, which worked so hard in the off season to find more speed and reliability under the hood. If that becomes a trend again for McMurray and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, Ganassi may use a much more negative word to describe 2012.

 

Jimmie Johnson

The consensus is Johnson will recover from the early season challenge of a 25 point penalty for pre-Daytona 500 inspection infractions and a forty-second place finish in “The Great American Race.” But the reality is the five-time champion comes to Las Vegas 71 points out of the lead. He finished fourth Sunday in Phoenix to prove there’s really nothing wrong with the 48 team on a whole and remains positive about what lies ahead despite the obstacles.

“It is going to make it exciting,” said crew chief Chad Knaus, who awaits to appeal the penalty and six-race suspension handed down by NASCAR. “That is one thing that we typically try to do here with the No. 48 team. We somehow or another we seem to get through adversity pretty well.

“I’m not saying we like a challenge like this, but I’m pretty sure we will rise to the occasion.”

Johnson has a couple of things on his side to rebound – time and the wild card berths available to make the Chase.

“The end result is winning races,” Johnson said. “The worst-case scenario would be fighting for a wild card spot and that boils down to winning races. There’s a lot of racing between now and September in Richmond, the cutoff for the Chase. Right now, we’re focused on doing the best job we can and the most points we possibly can.”

He’s made comebacks before but Johnson has never been in position to have to make one this early in a season.

 
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Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:54 pm
 

Video: Allmendinger, Menard, McMurray crash

Posted by Pete Pistone

A three car melee in the first half of Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway involved A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray:


 
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Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:06 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 4:07 pm
 

Ganassi calls 2011 effort "pathetic"

By Pete Pistone

CHARLOTTE - Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing suffred through a disappointing season in 2011.

Neither Jamie McMurray or Juan Pablo Montoya won a race and both weren't anywhere close to competing for a berth in the Chase.

But don't take my word for the poor assessment of EGR's performance. Listen to what team owner Chip Ganassi had to say at Tuesday's session on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.

"Hopefully this is the last time I have to say we finished 21st and 27th in the points last year," Ganassi said. "... pathetic for a team with our ability and resources."

Ok Chip tell us how you really feel.

It is in fact refreshing to hear a team owner tell it like it is the way Ganassi did on Tuesday. There's no reason to sugar coat the fact that a team many predicted would be a factor in 2011 simply failed to live up to any expectations.

After McMurray won three races the previous year including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, he appeared to be on an upward trend to carry that succes into 2011. Unfortunately he never came close to replicating that kind of success.

Ditto for Montoya who was trying to recapture the magic of 2009 when he did qualify for the playoffs. He too failed to succeed and went through a coupl eof crew chiefs as the team tried to right the ship.

Ganassi points to his team not making more changes as a reason why it's playing catch-up heading into the new campaign.

"The one thing about sports is that it's constantly changing," Ganassi said. "You have to change with it and you have to change fast. I like to think I can shift gears and change directions as fast as anybody, but we got a little bit behind the curve, in terms of performance, and it's because we didn't change with the sport."

So Montoya has another new crew chief in Chris Heroy, the organization made other management changes including bringing in long-respected Max Jones to oversee the day-to-day business operations and Ganassi is hoping to see better days ahead.

"Certainly after the year we had, we had to start over in a lot of areas," he said. "We made some changes in the team. We feel pretty good about them. Like so many other sports, racing's about momentum. We want to start out fast, and certainly success can breed success."
 

 
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Posted on: December 19, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:20 pm
 

Team Review/Preview: Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(McMurray's Brickyard 400 win of 2010 seemed like a world away after a disappointing 2011 campaign for EGR)


Review 

The team many expected to make a big move after an at-times sensational season the year before fell flat on its face in 2011. 

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing’s tandem of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya suffered through a dismal campaign that ended up with both missing the Chase and neither even making the first twenty in the point standings. 

It was a far cry from the previous season when team owner Chip Ganassi celebrated NASCAR wins in the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 as well as triumphs in the Indianapolis 500 and Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. 

“Very disappointed. I’m heartbroken, to tell you the truth,” Ganassi said. “We lost our way a bit. A year ago, we had the best cars. A year ago, we had the best engines. And we just lost our way here right in this building.” 

After McMurray won the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and October Charlotte race in 2010, most believed he would continue the successful trend into the new season. McMurray was a very early season favorite by many to win more races and lock down a Chase berth. 

But McMurray could only muster two top five finishes all season long and after coming hone fifth in the August Bristol race never was better than fourteenth the rest of the way. 

The result was a twenty-eighth place spot in the final standings and a very bitter taste left in the mouth of the Joplin, Missouri native.

“It's been really frustrating to have such a good season last year and struggle so much this year,” McMurray said. “We've kind of been the guy that something breaks on the car and the engine shop or wherever the failure is, they say they've never seen that before. It's just really odd.” 

Montoya could certainly empathize with his teammate’s plight also suffering through a season marred by mechanical issues as well as mediocre performances. Like McMurray, Montoya also notched only a pair of top five finishes on his way to ending up twenty first in the final Sprint Cup points.

“It just seems whatever we do is wrong,” said Montoya. “When we try to save fuel, everybody runs out of fuel, including myself. When we’ve tried to go the other way, conservative because people are running out of gas, they don’t.

“What do you do? It’s just a little bit of luck, and the luck hasn’t been on our side.” 

Along the way Montoya was involved in a few controversies as well, first enduring a crew chief change when popular Brian Pattie – who helped guide the former open wheel star to a Chase berth in 2009 – was replaced by team engineer Jim Pohlman. 

The fiery Montoya got into a feud with Ryan Newman as well this past season, a rivalry that boiled over with a number of incidents. The first came at the April Richmond race when the two made contact several times including one that appeared to be a payback by Montoya that ended up with Newman spinning into the wall. 

The two went at it again at Darlington on Mother’s Day weekend reportedly including inside the NASCAR hauler when Newman punched Montoya. 

"I'm not going to tell you s---. Let's leave it at that,” Montoya said when asked what went on behind closed doors. “What happened in the trailer was between me, Ryan Newman and NASCAR. That's it." 

Although Montoya added later "Newman hits like a girl."




Preview 

Ganassi orchestrated some major management changes inside his organization in hopes of getting his team back to a competitive level in 2012. 

Competition Director Steve Hmiel was fired, as was longtime EGR employee and team manager Tony Glover. Between them the pair have decades of experience in the sport but both were let go in a post-season shake up that also included the release of team engineer Ed Nathman. 

Pohlman returned to another spot inside the organization with Chris Heroy tabbed to now lead the No. 42 team working with Montoya. Kevin “Bono” Manion will return to McMurray’s squad and the No. 1 Chevrolet. 

Ganassi know the difficulty in trying to turn things around but vows to do whatever he can to get both his cars running competitively in the coming season.

“I’ve been in this position before so I think it’s just everybody has to get down and buckle down and work a little harder,” Ganassi told SPEED. “It’s no big secret. There’s no magic. There’s no silver bullet either. It’s just a lot of little things that we need to get back on, get focused on, get back to work on. They all know what to do. It’s just sort of outlining what we want to do, give them a plan and go attack the plan.”

 

Outlook

EGR will have its work cut out trying to pick up the pieces from the disastrous 2011 effort. While Ganassi has made some drastic changes inside the management of the company, it remains to be seen just how those will impact the weekly product on the race track. Both McMurray and Montoya suffered from a severe lack of speed last season, which was compounded by the bad luck and miscues that made their years forgettable. The untested Heroy will need to regroup the No. 42 team while Manion looks to recapture the magic he and McMurray enjoyed in 2010. Overall neither driver looks Chase-worthy heading into the 2012 season.

CHECK OUT MORE POSTS FROM OUR 2011 TEAM REVIEW/2012 PREVIEW SERIES 

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 5:28 pm
 

2011: biggest surprises and disappointments

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Keselowski's Pocono win driving with a broken ankle helped bring the No. 2 team closer together)

The 2011 Sprint Cup Series season is in the rear view mirror and as always there were several surprises along the way both of the good and bad variety.

Here’s a look at those who exceeded expectations this past season as well as those who would rather erase their 2011 effort from the memory bank:

Biggest Surprises

Brad Keselowski

The Penske Racing driver enjoyed a banner season that will be remembered as his NASCAR coming out party. Not only did Keselowski excel behind the wheel he also became one of the garage area’s “go to” guys, not afraid to speak his mind and always ready to give a candid assessment of any situation. Granted that philosophy got him into hot water recently when NASCAR fined Keselowski $25,000 for his criticism of the new electronic fuel system, but don’t expect the incident to completely change his ways. His winning performance at Pocono driving to victory lane with a broken ankle and other injuries suffered in a testing crash at Road Atlanta only days earlier cemented the cohesiveness of the "Blue Deuce" squad. Keselowski raced his way into the Chase as a wild card with three wins in the regular season as his ticket and although wasn’t able to mount a serious threat for the championship, proved he belongs in future conversations about title contenders.

Trevor Bayne

His storybook win in the Daytona 500 to start the year is the stuff of legends and Bayne kicked down the door of stardom with his stirring win in “The Great American Race.” Unfortunately he was derailed from following his dream by a mysterious illness that knocked Bayne from the sport for nearly three months and set back his development. But once he returned to the full-time Nationwide Series ride with Roush Fenway Racing as well as his limited Cup Series slate for the Wood Brothers, Bayne once again demonstrated why he’s considered one of the brightest young talents in the sport. His first career Nationwide win at Texas was every bit as impressive as the Daytona victory. However Bayne now faces the challenge of the economic pressures of the sport and how that will impact his 2012 plans in both divisions. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

This time a year ago Earnhardt Jr.’s Sprint Cup career was in a shambles. He had just completed a miserable 2010 season that saw him finish 21<sup>st</sup> in the point standings and score only three top five finishes all season long. But then team owner Rick Hendrick installed Steve Letarte as Junior’s crew chief in a shake up of the Hendrick Motorsports organization and almost instantly the improvement began. Earnhardt started the season running more competitively than since he first joined Hendrick in 2008 and came very close to finally snapping his three-year winless streak. Although he leveled off later in the campaign, Earnhardt made the Chase and finished seventh in the final standings with four top five and twelve top ten finishes to his credit. More importantly was the new sense of enthusiasm and confidence instilled in Earnhardt and the feeling more success was right around the corner.

 

Biggest Disappointments

Kyle Busch

This was supposed to be the year that Busch finally broke to the next level of his Sprint Cup career and not only challenge for a championship but win one. He rattled off a series-leading four wins in the regular season and entered the Chase as the number one seed. And then as has been his pattern in past playoff runs things fell apart only this time they did so in spectacular fashion punctuated by Busch’s Camping World Truck Series altercation with Ron Hornaday in Texas. NASCAR parked Busch for the remainder of the weekend, only the third time in more than a decade the sanctioning body sat a driver out of a Cup race for disciplinary actions, and his promising 2011 season ended in a controversial thud. Despite all of his success and more than 100 career wins across NASCAR’s top three divisions, Busch enters next year at a definite crossroads. 

Jamie McMurray

His three big wins of 2010 put McMurray near the top of many people’s list of drivers to make the Chase this season and perhaps contend for the title. But the entire Earnhardt Ganassi Racing organization including teammate Juan Pablo Montoya seemed completely off its game this year and McMurray finished 27<sup>th</sup> in the final standings. He had only a pair of top five finishes all season long and looked nowhere near the same driver who won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 the previous campaign. 

Joey Logano

The expiration date of waiting for Logano to finally fulfill the lofty promise he brought with him to NASCAR’s top series is closing in. After ending the 2010 season on a torrid pace Logano seemed ready to take it up a notch this year and at least punch a ticket into the Chase lineup. But he got off to a bad start and never was able to recover from a series of disappointments and challenges including the Joe Gibbs Racing team’s engine woes. There was some speculation mid-season that JGR was courting free agent Carl Edwards to join the organization and move Logano either to the Nationwide Series or out completely. In the end Edwards stayed at Roush Fenway and Logano remains in the No. 20 ride – for now.


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Posted on: June 3, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Kansas driver notes and quotes

Posted by Pete Pistone


112035050CH038_STP_400_Prac
(It's a busy scene at Kansas Speedway this weekend)

NOTES AND QUOTES

Highlights from Friday’s driver availability at Kansas Speedway in anticipation of Sunday’s inaugural STP 400:

JAMIE McMURRAY AFTER VISITING HIS TORNADO-RAVAGED HOMETOWN OF JOPLIN, MISSOURI

“I woke up at about 1 in the morning and you just think about everything you saw, whether it was home or high school or just the town. And then I really couldn’t quit thinking about the stories that people shared with me about their loss. It’s just hard not to think about it.”

"I thought going there and seeing my childhood home was going to be the most devastating thing for me, and I was trying to mentally prepare for that. In reality, it wasn’t. It was to hear the stories and the fear and the voice of the people that went through the tornado. The fear when they told the story in their voice is something that you can’t explain. … [There’s a story] of a father [who] broke both of his arms holding on to his kid [who died]. Isn’t that crazy? I can’t imagine."


DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON HOW HE'D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AND THE CONSTANT COMPARISON TO HIS FATHER

"I don’t know why that’s the case. I guess I don’t want to disappoint anybody. My father raced in this sport for a long time and he worked … with a lot of people I work with today. Being his son, I don’t want to disappoint anybody. I don’t want to say anything that will make anyone ashamed of me. I want to run well, but I want to act right, too. In the end, I just want people to say that I was a good person and I was honest. That I was a good guy to be around and a good sport about things.’’

 

KEVIN HARVICK ON WHETHER HE CAN KEEP THE “GOLDEN HORSESHOE” HE TOOK FROM JIMMIE JOHNSON

“I hope so. I hope we get to keep it. It is fun to be able to have performance in your race cars. I’ve said this about the No. 48 for a long time. They have had performance in their race cars and when they get in those situations where things are going their way, they are able to capitalize and finally, we’re able to capitalize when we have some breaks on pit road and we have fuel mileage, whatever the case may be. You car still has to be still running decent. When you get in those positions and you are able to capitalize on it, it makes it that much better. I hope we get to keep it until November 21st.”

 

JOHNSON’S RESPONSE ABOUT THE HORSESHOE

“Yeah, we’ve had some fun with it especially on the Twitter space with the whole horseshoe thing. It was something that Kevin said at California and we had some luck come our way. It started then and I couldn’t let it not come back after his good fortune the last couple of weeks. When I was in the situation having things going my way, sometimes things just go your way and other times they don’t and you’ve got to be running well and you have to be in that top-five window to take advantage of good luck. Last week things turned out well for him and I’m on the joking side of it all. I want my horseshoe back and I know he wants to keep it until after Homestead. Through Twitter there has been a ton of other fans, drivers and even crew members lobbying for their need for the horseshoe. So it’s been a fun week messing around with all of it to say the least.”

 

RYAN NEWMAN WHEN ASKED IF DRIVING A HIGH PERFORMANCE VEHICLE ON THE ROAD WOULD BE HARD

“Oh, my cars run pretty good. I’m like anybody else, I speed. If you go down the interstate very rarely do you find somebody doing less than the speed limit. But it’s that level of respect and it’s that level of responsibility of where you fit in. You’re going to be there matching everybody else’s speed or a little bit over or a little bit under. When you’re three times the speed limit that is way past crossing the line. I’m not saying that because I’ve gone three times the speed limit but in the right place and the right time, when there’s no cars around or people or roads or anything else.”

 

MATT KENSETH ON WHETHER THINK CAUTIONS SHOULD BE CALLED DIFFERENTLY WITH 200 THAN WITH TWO TO GO?

“Not necessarily. I think they should just be consistent and I think they have been pretty consistent when it comes to that. It is not easy to call a race. You want the fans to see a green flagged finish but you also have to have the safety of the fans and competitors and people on pit road on your mind at the same time. I know when they came back around there was nobody on the track and all the cars had cleared off there, so I don’t know. Part of the reason to have three green-while-checkered finish attempts is so that if you do have a mess like that on a restart then the fans can still see a green flag finish. There was two of those left, but like I said I didn’t really see it. I was on the tail end of the lead lap and I probably could have gotten a top-10 finish. Everybody is in a different situation and us as drivers are always going to look at it as what helps us the best in that particular race.”

 

TONY STEWART ON WHETHER SHOULD A RACE BE OFFICIATED DIFFERENTLY EARLY IN THE RACE VERSUS LATE IN THE RACE?

“My job is in the garage, I’m not going to get in that drama and that debate.  I think it’s asinine to keep people talking about it.  Nothing is going on now that hasn’t gone on for years here and it’s always been fine.  Everybody is over-analyzing all this.”

 

KYLE BUSCH ON THE STATUS OF KIMI RAIKKENON AND HIS TRUCK SERIES PROGRAM

“I’m pretty disappointed that a lot of my quotes from last week got taken out of context and misinterpreted.  As I did mention, Kimi Raikkonen’s people have paid in full.  The contract terms did change.  All we did was change -- they were going to run three to five Truck races.  Well, they paid for the Truck races, but then he said, ‘Okay, let’s do a Nationwide race.’  So, we took those funds from the end of the year and put them to that Nationwide race.  So, they are paid in full for the races they’ve run.  We have not had any discussions on further on down the road what he wants to do.  As he mentioned, he’s got Rally and other stuff that he’s worried about.  We’re not mad whatsoever.  We knew things would change so that’s why contracts are always kind of weirded-out anyway.  If they want to come and run a few more Truck races, we’ve got the opportunity to do a couple more Nationwide races, and I’m sure myself and Joe Nemechek can put something together.  It’s all up to those guys, really."

 
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Posted on: June 3, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: June 3, 2011 11:10 am
 

Jamie McMurray surveys hometown damage

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Kansas City's KCTV5 followed Jamie McMurray as he returned to his hometown of Joplin, Missouri, which was ravaged by a tornado on May 22.



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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 23, 2011 5:24 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Tornado devastates McMurray's home town

Posted by Pete Pistone


Jamie McMurray's hometown of Joplin, Missouri was hit hard by a massive tornado that swept through the small historic town late Sunday afternoon. The Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver released the following statement in the aftermath of the tragic event:



My heart goes out to all the people that have been affected by the devastating Missouri tornado on May 22nd, especially in my hometown of Joplin.

It is difficult to put into words, the emotions I have when I see the devastation and destruction that was caused by this storm. My thoughts and prayers are extended to all the people who are dealing with so much loss.

I would also like to thank all those that have reached out to me to express their concerns for my family. Although I don't personally have any family in Joplin any longer, there are still many people there that need our support and prayers.

 
Category: Auto Racing
 
 
 
 
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