“It’s always fun to come back here,” said McMurray, a natice of nearby Joplin, Mo. “My mom and dad actually flew out here with me this weekend. My mom has been down in Joplin with some of her friends. My dad and I went fishing over at Bass Pro Shops’ farm over in Calhoun, Missouri the last couple of days. It’s been a really fun weekend so far and it’s certainly nice to have my family with me.
“I’ve got a lot of really good memories of this part of the country. Charlotte is my home now, but I really enjoy coming back here and running into people I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Asked to explain his improved performance since the start of the Chase, McMurray said, “It sure does seem odd that we’ve been a really good car, (despite not being) in the Chase. I don’t know if some guys get deflated when they don’t make the Chase. It seems like maybe some of those teams start trying off-the-wall ideas because they’re not in the Chase. There’s not really anything to gain by doing things (that way), because the rules are going to change so much next year with the ground zero car and not having (post-race) ride height rules that I don’t really see a big advantage in experimenting.
“Until we get to test that car in the off season and find out exactly what the rules are, I think for the rest of the year you just do what works best.
“Racing goes in streaks,” he said. “It seems that you get on a streak (where) everything you do works, and then you have the opposite as well, where stuff that worked in the past suddenly doesn’t. Right now, I feel like our mile-and-a-half program has been good, so I expect to run well this weekend.”
McMurray said he is optimistic about the speed shown by EGR in the second half of this season, harkening back to a 2010 season that saw him win three times, including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I feel that our cars are better now than they were in 2010,” he said. “We haven’t won the races that we did in 2010, but the cars have been really good. A lot of the speed has come from making good decisions in the race and getting ourselves in a better position. (Montoya) has been in a position to win a few races. I think we’re doing a better job at finishing where the car should.”
McMurray said there will be a different dynamic to EGR next season, with the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya and the arrival of highly touted rookie Kyle Larson.
“I think it will be different for our whole organization,” he said. “think the meetings will be different. We’re going to have more meetings with the teams and the drivers. They’re structuring that right now, trying to get everything a little more organized for next season.”
McMurray said he is looking forward to working with Larson, who he called, “a really easy guy to get along with. He’s a good person, he’s been racing for a long time and racing is all he wants to do. I think he’ll be a really good listener.
“I’m not one to push my opinion over,” he said. “But if he asks my opinion, I’ll be very honest with him. I think there will be a little bit that I can help him with on tracks he’s never been to; Martinsville, Pocono and some of those places. (I can) explain how restarts work or little nuances that happen at each track. I think my role with Kyle is going to be much larger off the track, (teaching him about) sponsor commitments and a lot of things we don’t always pay attention to when someone gets a Cup ride, versus being in Trucks or Nationwide.”
He also said it will be helpful to have a teammate located in the Charlotte area, as opposed to the Miami area, where Montoya resides.
“Juan and I really don’t have a relationship away from the race track,” he explained. “I don’t know if that’s important, but the fact that Kyle and I are both into karting and can go out and do that -- just hang out and goof off – is good. We’re definitely at different stages in our life -- I’m married with kids and he has neither -- but when you have a common hobby and something you can go do together to maybe become better friends, I think that’s going to be good.”
He also said Larson’s presence will have a positive impact on team morale.
“It’s hard for Juan because he lives so far away,” McMurray said. “Normally, when he would come to the shop, it’s for a reason. You don’t always have time to hang out and goof off. Normally, when he was there, it’s when he had a photo shoot or because they needed him for something.
“Kyle is one of those guys that I think will be at the shop a lot. That will be his hangout throughout the day.”