“It’s been a frustrating year. I think everyone knows that.”
That’s how Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Cup car for Roush Racing, summed up his 2006 season this morning in Phoenix.
As a result, big changes are in the works at Roush Racing. The organization has only two drivers – Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin – in the Chase this season, after placing all five drivers there last year.
Yesterday it was announced that McMurray’s crew chief, Bob Osbourne, is returning to his previous role as crew chief for Carl Edwards‘ No. 99 team effective immediately. McMurray will have Wally Brown as temporary crew chief for the remainder of 2006, while a decision regarding a permanent crew chief for the No. 26 team has not been finalized.
Greg Biffle and Doug Richert are also parting ways at the end of 2006.
“We’re talking to different people and trying to find the guy that will be the right fit for me,” McMurray said regarding the selection of a new crew chief for his team. Meanwhile, he did not rule out the possibility of other changes to team personnel.
“We have a huge group of people to choose from at Roush Racing, whether it’s from the truck program, the Busch program, or in the Cup program. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen there. We haven’t gone that deep into the situation, because once you get the crew chief picked, a lot of times crew chiefs will bring in people that they’re comfortable working with and that they have a lot of confidence in. So that will be the first thing we need to find, and once we get a crew chief, we’ll sit down with him and figure out what he wants to do.”
This season has easily been the most difficult of McMurray’s career. In his first year driving for Roush, he’s compiled just three top-five finishes to go along with five DNFs and sits 23rd in Nextel Cup points. Yet in a season that could have turned any car owner sour, McMurray has nothing but praise for the support he’s received from team owner Jack Roush throughout the season.
“Jack has been my biggest fan. He reassures me every week that he doesn’t feel that I’ve been the problem. But at the same time, the sponsors are only going to stay around so long running the way that we are. He knows that and I know that. They’ve been very supportive, but we have to get our program turned around.”
Asked if he considers 2007 a make-or-break season, Jamie nodded, “Oh, I think so. As bad as we’ve run this year, you can’t go do that again. It’s not fun for me and it’s not fun for Jack. It’s not fun for anyone at Roush Racing or the sponsors. We certainly have to get our program going.”
Despite the year’s frustrations, McMurray remains upbeat.
“Racers are so optimistic. Every week you show up and think you’re going to win. If you don’t feel that way, then you need to find something else to do.”
“I don’t think you ever give up hope.”