2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray is hoping that the 2012 season will see him return to winning ways, after a dire 2011 season saw him finish winless and fail to make the Chase, down in 27th in points. The Earnhardt–Ganassi driver is optimistic that changes introduced over the winter will enable the team to leap back up the pecking order.
“We’re coming into 2012 so open-minded [because] we’ve made so many changes at the shop and within each team. Chip [Ganassi, team-owner] has made a really big commitment,” McMurray said. “I mean, they changed a lot of management. We hired a lot of new people from different organizations. You know, we hired John Probst [technical director] from Red Bull, and he’s done a really good job, with getting everything organized.”
“The frustrating part is that we won races with the guys that were there before, won some really big races. But I think the morale in the shop got way down, and everyone, you know, you start criticizing everybody, and Chip needed to make a change to get everybody pumped back up.”
McMurray says that Ganassi is conscious of the need to up their game in 2012, with his team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya also outside the top 20 in points last year. However he is cautious about the gains the new staff will bring, and believes it will take time for them to have any effect on the team's performance.
“I don’t think you’re going to see just immediate results because it’s going to take a little time. Daytona is not a good measurement [to compare with rivals] – it really isn’t. When you get to Phoenix, Vegas and those kinds of tracks you kind of know what you have and what your season’s gonna be like.
“But from my perspective looking at it, it seems much more organized and everyone seems to be behind us.”
Montoya has a new crew-chief for 2012 in the form of ex-Hendrick Motorsport engineer Chris Heroy, who he hopes will help him return to Chase-contention. The Colombian is similarly wary of over-estimating Ganassi's realistic goals for the coming season.
“I love racing at Daytona but it’s not something you can gauge the rest of the year on,” Montoya said.
“Plate racing is much different than what 90 percent of our schedule is. Teams will have a better idea of what they have after the Phoenix race.”