Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues with Jamie McMurray, the former Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. McMurray is 20th in the point standings this season.
SBN: What percent of the races in your career can you remember?
JM: A lot. It seems like you remember random races, not necessarily the ones you've run well in. I feel like every year when we go back to a track, it doesn't take much to jog your memory about everything that happened in that race. But at the same time, there are some you just don't remember anything of. But I feel like I remember a lot of them.
SBN: What was the first win you got in any form of motorsports?
JM: I have no idea.
SBN: I guess that's one of the races you don't remember then.
JM: It's probably go-karting, but I don't remember it. I remember my first race clearly, perfectly. I remember everything about the day, my first time going to a go-kart track. But I have no idea when I first won.
SBN: Who is a clean driver you really enjoy racing with?
JM: Matt Kenseth.
SBN: Has it always been that way with you two?
JM: No. I had a rivalry with him for awhile in 2004 and 2005; we wrecked each other multiple times. Then I became his teammate (at Roush Fenway Racing) and we weren't very good friends the first year – and then he ended up being my best friend. Wives and kids overrule past relationships. (Laughs)
SBN: On the opposite side of that, is there anyone who always seems to make it particularly hard on you?
JM: Yeah, Ryan Newman used to be that guy for me. But then when I came to the 1 car and Newman drove (crew chief) Bono (Manion's) Modified car, it's like all changed. (Laughs) So it's not anymore, but Newman used to be that guy who was really hard to pass. He just made you work for it more than others, I think.
And the thing that happens when you first come to this level is it's really hard to give. But if you give, the other guy always seems to give back. It's really hard to give up a spot, but it seems like if you do, it's always paid back rather fast. So maybe I was a challenge for him to pass as well and that's what was happening.
SBN: What's your personal code of conduct on the track?
JM: Oh, I think every weekend is a little different there. Like if you're racing before a competition caution, I know the guys I'm pitted around – and if I know the guy is pitted right behind me, I'll fight him so that when the caution comes out, we don't have to try to go around each other. It's different every run.
SBN: I've never heard that before – the idea of racing someone hard early in the race to make a pit stop easier.
JM: Absolutely. Sometimes I'll fight harder to get around someone for that reason, but sometimes – like I did it at Talladega with Jeff Gordon – I let him go. He was pitted right in front of me, so when the caution came out and we came down pit road, I let him go and pulled in behind him. It benefits both of you if you do that, because if he has to come around you, it slows his stop down – and if he's slow, then you can't get out.
SBN: Do you keep a mental list of people you owe for on-track payback?
JM: No. I believe in karma. I really believe what goes around comes around. Retaliation, for me, happens immediately. But for the most part, I don't hold a grudge on that.
SBN: If you could turn back time and team up with someone from the past, who would you want to be teammates with?
JM: I'd want Rusty (Wallace) for sure, because he's so animated and I really enjoyed it when I drove his Nationwide car and listened to him talk. Rusty could take a really bad day and make it sound like everything was fine.
SBN: When is the last time you got nervous about anything?
JM: Yesterday. I get nervous about everything. I'm an overthinker, really bad. I wear myself out over something every night when I lay down for bed. It doesn't matter what it is. I plan my whole day out when I close my eyes, and I worry about something until I fall asleep. Then I wake up and I start thinking about it again.
SBN: That doesn't sound like very much fun.
JM: No. That's why I get up really early.
SBN: You guys meet a lot of fans, and sometimes they can ask awkward or uncomfortable questions. Do you have any stories along those lines?
JM: I had a fan who asked me before Talladega what it was like to race with Dale Jr. And I think those questions sometimes come out because they don't know what to ask, right? She had all Dale Jr. gear on, and I tried to explain to her: "I've known Dale Jr. for 12 or 15 years now. I've done a lot of stuff with Dale Jr. Racing with him, I don't really think about it. It's just part of it."
SBN: So she was asking as if it were some huge thing to be on the same track as him?
JM: Yeah, like it was my first time. But I could also see she was nervous, so I was like, "I appreciate the question, but I don't really know how to answer it."
SBN: If you had to pick one of these jobs after your career was over, would you rather be a NASCAR broadcaster or a high-ranking NASCAR official like a Robin Pemberton or John Darby?
JM: A NASCAR broadcaster. I'll tell you why: I think I would do a really good job explaining what drivers are thinking. When I watch races and listen to broadcasters, I feel like sometimes (their thinking) is a little outdated. You know what I mean? And I would work really hard to not brag about every accomplishment I've ever had.
SBN: What's a question you get asked a lot that you're tired of answering?
JM: I can't think of anything. Normally that comes along with either success or something on the track – like Tony Stewart probably answered a lot of the same questions after (Talladega), right? The redundant questions come after winning or making a massive mistake everyone sees, and I haven't had either of those lately.
SBN: I've been asking each person to give me a question for the next interview. Last week, Jeff Burton wanted to know: The last person you wrecked, did you do it intentionally?
JM: I wrecked Kurt Busch (at Talladega), but it absolutely wasn't intentional – he ran out of gas. I felt so bad! I'm like, "Holy shit, I just spun this guy out!" But I was like, "Why did he slow down so much though?"
It's weird though, because when you run out of gas, it's not like you cut the switch off. You still have half power for a little bit. And I was like, "OK, I'm locked on you now. Let's go!" And then I was like, "Oh God, I spun him out."
So much stuff happens at a plate race that people don't see – like a big wreck that didn't happen. And I was like, "Ugh, that's going to be the one they show on SportsCenter."
SBN: And can you help me out with a question for the next guy?
JM: Yeah. My question would go around what's been talked about lately: Do you think you've ever raced with a concussion?
I think they'll say yes. I think everyone in this garage has at some point. Not on purpose, but everyone in this garage has wrecked pretty hard at some point and had to race the next weekend.