Jamie McMurray already in sync with new crew chief Matt McCall
Jamie McMurray has worked with multiple crew chiefs throughout his NASCAR Sprint Cup career -- sometimes to great success and sometimes not.
So it's safe to say that McMurray, who made his first top series NASCAR start in late 2002, knows a good crew chief when he sees one. And he believes he's found such a guy in new pit boss Matt McCall.
Unlike most crew chiefs who possess layers of knowledge about the mechanics of a race car but boast no experience driving one, McCall is a former driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, as well as a former champion of the World Karting Association dirt series.
"I love when I'm talking to him and I talk about something I've experienced at a track, and he starts shaking his head, 'Yes, yes,' and I'm like, 'Yep, you already know exactly where I'm going with this,'" McMurray said.
"I think potentially any time that I'm speaking about driving stuff, maybe it will come out to where maybe he'll trust me more or believe what I'm saying, because I know a lot of times on the driver's side if you're working with the crew chief and they ask you a question and then you give them an answer, you're not always going to believe it," said McCall, who replaced Keith Rodden as McMurray's crew chief when Rodden was named the new crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne. "So I think it will help with that as far as making it believable."
McMurray hasn't won a points race since 2013 but comes into 2015 on the heels of a season when he won the non-points-paying Sprint All-Star Race and finished a respectable 18th in the standings. The veteran driver believes NASCAR's win-and-you're-in method of making the Chase -- set to be used for just the second time this year -- plays to his strengths.
While McMurray has won some of the sport's biggest races -- including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 500 -- consistency has never been his strongsuit.
But McCall plans to help his driver change that.
"I think sometimes, especially if you win big races, it's easy to get sort of sidetracked," McCall said. "So I think to have the goal that the championship is there and that's what you're reaching for, I think will push to try to keep him on track, and the group of guys and girl that we have on our team are going to be able to do that, because we all like to cut up and have a good time, and I think that will be able to push him to stay focused."
"The way the Chase is laid out now, where you don't have to be consistent all year long, is a huge advantage to me," said McMurray, who has seven career wins but has never finished better than 11th in points. "I tend to get on streaks where it goes good or it can go not well. Last year, if I had made the Chase, we ran really well at every Chase race. So ultimately it's about the format you're in. It's about the way we ended our season last year and it's about, I think Matt is going to help bring us to the next level."
"I haven't put my helmet on and talked to him through the radio, and I'm very anxious to get to experience that to see how he responds, but the thing I love about Matt, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Matt is, first off, he's really respectful, and I think he was raised by a really strict father," McMurray said. "I love that he says, 'Yessir,' to anyone younger or older than him; it doesn't matter.
"I do the same thing. I feel like I try to be as respectful as I can to everybody, and I think that is what is really going to make Matt and I a good match -- that we both think the same way."
"Acceptable is obviously making the Chase," he said. "With the way the Chase is now, it's kind of hard. ... Yeah, you want to say you want to win the championship, and that would be awesome, but I'd say if you end up top 10, and top five, that would be acceptable to me. I always try to have really high standards. Sometimes people are like, 'It's crazy you're reaching for that,' but if you don't set it to where you want to be, you're never going to reach that."