McMurray, Roush Gel Just In Time To Say Good-Bye
The celebration in Victory Lane after Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega seemed a bit more spirited than others we have seen in recent months. The smiles seemed bigger and the emotions more intense.
It was a great scene as Jamie McMurray, Jack Roush and members of the Roush Fenway Racing No. 26 team sprayed champagn, high-fived and slapped backs like there was no tomorrow – all because, basically, there isn’t.
The team will be disbanded following the 2009 season, a casualty of the decision to limit the number of teams one owner is allowed to own. It’s trust-busting, NASCAR style. And it made for a kind of unique post-race press conference: Happy and sad all at the same time.
“Coming over here I thought it would be kind of a sure bet,” McMurray said, “and it just hasn’t been as good as what it needed to be. But certainly I’ll miss being a part of this organization.”
The interviews in that press conference kind of gave insight into what McMurray’s four years on the Roush team were like. Heeping helpings of bittersweetness.
“You know,” McMurray said, “I said this kind of jokingly on TV, but my first year or so, Jack was a little bit mean to me, I guess would be the easy way to put that. His motivating skills were…he just wasn’t pushing the right button. He’s told me numerous times that, you know, everyone is motivated differently.”
McMurray came to Roush in 2006 amid high expectations. Good looking and articulate, he had become a phenom when he won a race at Charlotte just two weeks after taking over the Chip Ganassi Racing ride of injured Sterling Marlin in the autumn of 2002.
In three full seasons with Ganassi, McMurray appeared to be a bit better than his equipment, though he never won again.
He then split and ended up with a job in 2006 with a Roush organization which had won 15 times in 2005 and had placed in the top-five of 61 races that season.
Many thought that McMurray was bound for instant glory.
Didn’t happen, as McMurray solemnly admitted.
Chemistry problems were cited and McMurray went through several crew chiefs. And then there was the button-pushing thing.
Now, a lot of the problems appear to be solved as McMurray and current crew chief Donnie Wingo appear to be in sync and McMurray and Roush have become, well, good friends.
“He’s learned to push the right button, I guess, when he comes up to my car before the race and what to say to me,” McMurray said late Sunday afternoon.
And just in time to say good-bye.
“I guess we’re going to have to part our ways at the end of the year here based on going from five teams to four,” Roush said Sunday. “That’s a great sadness, but I hope that we can win another race with Jamie, and certainly am happy for this one.”
McMurray said he will miss being with the team which has become synonymous with big horsepower and reliability.
“You know,” McMurray, a native of Joplin, Mo., said, “I’ll miss not getting to drive one of these cars. Certainly Jack’s team can put just incredible equipment on the track, and this year hasn’t been as good as what it’s been in the past. But whether it’s the engine shop or the engineering department or the chassis shop, he has an incredible race team.
“But you never know, you know, you might end up driving for Jack one day again. So I’m not going to make him mad in this meeting we’re having here.”
Rumors are hot that McMurray may be headed back to Ganassi, who now is co-owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
McMurray said, yes, he has heard those rumors but no, he is not ready to confirm. He was actually quite coy about it all on Sunday afternoon.
“I think that everybody knows what rides there are out there,” he said. “You know, certainly if a sponsor were to call me, that would make it a lot easier with the amount of teams that are shutting down. There are not a lot of options out there, so I think everyone knows the cars that are available right now. For me, I just hope that we can get it, you know, signed and announce it whenever they want to so that it will make it a little bit easier to sleep at night.”
Whoever he signs with and whenever the deal is announced, McMurray was probably able to squeeze a few more dollars out of his new boss after what happened at Talladega last Sunday.
But he will leave wishing he could have squeeze a few more victories out of his Roush Fenway ride.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment