tampabay.com

McMurray is moving forward

By KELLIE DIXON
Published May 26, 2007


 

CONCORD - It's not magic. And it's not sleight of hand.

But the key to Jamie McMurray's success has been rooted in the same unwavering confidence he shows in his television commercial with driver Kasey Kahne.

McMurray insists in the spot that his phone is more magical than Kahne's ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat. McMurray's season also could seem miraculous after his 2006 run, his worst season ever.

But really, 2007 has been different because of the faith that McMurray has in himself and his team, which was practically brand new at the start of the season. McMurray has recorded two top fives and five top 10s compared to three top fives and seven top tens in 2006. And thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr's wing infraction, McMurray is 12th in points and poised to make the Chase.

"It seemed like last year everywhere we went we struggled, " said mechanic Ricky Coleman, a tire specialist for McMurray's team in 2006. "Everything up to this point this year has been a step forward."

Last season McMurray, who was in his first year with Roush Fenway Racing, went through two crew chiefs and ended the season with his car chief filling the role on weekends. McMurray spent most of the season with Carl Edwards' crew chief, Bob Osborne, and Osborne tried to pattern much of the No. 26 after Edwards' No. 99, another Roush Fenway car. But McMurray and Osborne struggled to make the proper adjustments.

"Jamie has improved quite a bit, " said Osborne, still the crew chief for Edwards. "Apart from one or two highlights, we didn't have a very good season at all."

A lot of that has to do with new crew chief Larry Carter, who has patterned the shop and McMurray's ride after Matt Kenseth's No. 17. Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, also is a Roush Fenway driver so his team's information is available to Carter.

"They structured their shop the way we have ours, they built their car like we have ours, " said Robbie Reiser, crew chief of the No. 17. "They tried to take the whole blueprint of what the 17 is and put it in their system. ... They got themselves in a place where they might be able to make the chase, and that's a huge goal for our whole company to be in that spot."

But what's so magical with the system behind the No. 17? Reiser just shook his head Thursday. He didn't know. Just surround yourself with good people and stay organized, he advised.

Mechanic Bobby Skinger, who worked with the rear suspension on the No. 26 in 2006, said there is a noticeable difference in McMurray's confidence level this season.

"He seems to be more acceptable to what Larry wants to do to the car, what the engineer proposes, the ideas they come up with, " Skinger said. "When the driver has more confidence, he tends to be more successful."

Communication also is better. Carter said McMurray chatters nonstop inside the race car. McMurray noted that he's comfortable with Carter, and he trusts him.

""I feel like whenever he makes a decision, he really believes it, " McMurray said. "You can't make yourself believe other people's ideas. You have to really have faith in them, and I have that with Larry."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or 352 544-9480.