NASCAR Brickyard 400 Qualifying Notes: Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr. And More

Jamie McMurray said he's already "looking at next year" and trying to develop setups that will get his team back to the level of competitiveness it enjoyed in 2010.

"I haven't really written this season off, but for the most part, I have," the defending Brickyard 400 winner said Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "...You're already building on what you have for next year. There's a lot of racing left and I still think we'll have the opportunity to win a race, we just have to hit on the right stuff."

The problem, McMurray said, is that none of his team's race setups from 2010 – including the one that helped win the Brickyard 400 last year – have been effective this season. Even when the team returns to the same tracks where it won.

Coupled with two engine failures and a transmission failure at Pocono, McMurray's season has been "really disappointing," he said.

But McMurray said there is hope: The intermediate track program (where the team has been off this year) seems to have made some gains during practice at Indianapolis, and the driver is hoping his team can apply those new ideas to the setup.


Jimmie Johnson said he texted buddy Travis Pastrana on Friday after the action sports star's X Games crash resulted in a broken leg and foot.

"He's bummed," Johnson said. "He texted he was disappointed he let everyone down ... and I told him he's crazy. There's not many people with the stones to try to pull off what he did on the motorcycle, so he shouldn't worry."

Pastrana also texted Johnson about his plans to try and run his Rally car at the X Games with just hand controls, but Johnson was skeptical. Still, he wasn't surprised by Pastrana's willingness to try it.

"I respect it," Johnson said. "That's what makes Travis, Travis. When we were racing the Race of Champions in Paris, I had broken my wrist on the golf cart. I came in a cast to support him, and he's like, 'Well, you're going to drive, aren't you?' I'm like, 'Nah...' He's like, 'Come on, it's in a cast! Let's go, I need you.' But that's why he's Travis Pastrana."


Joey Logano said he doesn't know if the Carl-Edwards-to-JGR rumors are true or not, but would like to know how they get started. As far as Logano knows, he still has a ride with Joe Gibbs Racing next season.

"No one's told me any different," he said. "I don't know. Maybe you guys can tell me who starts the rumors."


Scott Speed said he was happy to make a return to the Sprint Cup Series garage, which reminded him what a big family NASCAR is.

"It's weird to come back," he said. "I've seen so many people that I haven't seen in awhile, I forgot I knew so many people, honestly."

Speed, who is expecting a child soon with wife Amanda, said his Max Q Motorsports team plans to run the full races and not start-and-park. The team continues to seek sponsorship, he said.

While he makes his return to NASCAR, he's preparing to be a father for the first time. But he said having a new child won't make him grow up.

"I won't mature, that's the thing," he said with a laugh. "To be honest, I fully expect (Amanda's 10-year-old son) Rex to become the male, reasonable, responsible figure very soon here."


Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he would favor doing more of the autograph sessions like the one each of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers participated in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Though all of the drivers were present on Saturday, they'll be split up into smaller groups for autograph sessions at future tracks. A representative for Earnhardt Jr. said NASCAR's most popular driver will participate in the free sessions at Michigan and Kansas.

"I think the fans that got the opportunity to come in there and get autographs really, really appreciated it – and I enjoyed doing it," he said. "...I don't mind doing it at all. I'm game for whatever individual participation they want out of the drivers."

Drivers used to do many more autograph sessions than they do now, Earnhardt Jr. said, but many of the corporate sponsor appearances have turned into speaking events.

"(Autographs) used to be the norm," he said. "Appearances are more production-based and less autograph-based (now), so it's cool to kind of get back to the basics."


Kasey Kahne said his scary sprint car wreck at Williams Grove last week left him sore for a few days, but otherwise unscathed.

"It was just like any other wreck, other than I was in the air for a long time," he said. "I haven't been in the air for a long time for awhile. That was the difference. ... But you get over it pretty quick."


Casey Mears said his Germain Racing team may be small, but that doesn't mean it can't be competitive.

Mears' Brickyard 400 car – which he also ran at Kentucky – is the best vehicle the veteran driver has had since joining the Geico-sponsored team.

Before, his No. 13 car would be a half-second off the pace at some of the big tracks; now, Mears said, that gap has been cut in half.

"Things are looking up for next year," he said. "There are things around the corner that we might be able to run a full season next year, and I really see this team surprising people if we're able to do that."


Robby Gordon says his team is in "survival mode."

"Probably like 90 percent of the teams out here," he said. "A lot of them won't admit it."

Gordon said he's trying to juggle building his SPEED Energy drink brand, running his race team and focusing on driving all at the same time.

How does he do it?

"It's pretty simple," he said. "If you don't do the (business side), there won't be any driving."

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