Jamie McMurray took some laps around Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday.
It wasn’t a test to help him and his Sprint Cup team on road courses. It was a chance to drive one of team owner Chip Ganassi’s IndyCar Series machines.
“When I drove for Chip Ganassi from 2002 to 2005, honestly I don’t think I even saw an Indy car, never had the opportunity,” said McMurray, who won three Cup races last year for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. “When I came back here, I told Chip that if there was ever a chance, I’d really like to drive one of those somewhere.
“I didn’t really expect all the media and everyone else to be here on my adventure. I was more wanting to go spend half a day with the team somewhere and really get to test, and see what it’s like. But this is a really cool opportunity for me.”
While McMurray took laps in an Indy car, Ganassi IndyCar driver Scott Dixon drove McMurray’s Cup car around Talladega Superspeedway.
The swap and exhibition laps were designed to promote the upcoming races at the two Alabama tracks – the April 10 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and the April 17 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega.
“It was cool,” Dixon said. “The whole ‘sitting with a cover over you’ and the seating position and all the other things that were different in the car, the way the wheel is and how massive it is, all that was fun.
“This place is massive. … You feel really lonely by yourself. It would have been nice to maybe have a few other cars out here and maybe take the restrictor plate off and see the full power of these kinds of cars on a track like this.”
McMurray spun the Indy car at one point in his exhibition run.
“It was the slowest corner on the track, and I was just trying to go a little quicker,” McMurray said. “The car wanted to spin the tires really badly right there, and I probably didn’t give it enough time to get the tires warmed up enough.
“If I had to choose somewhere to spin out there, that was a really good selection, because it didn’t cost anything.”
The 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 champion continued on after the spin.
“I thought the hardest part [would be] just being in the open, and being exposed without a windshield,” McMurray said. “But that didn’t bother me at all. I actually enjoyed being out in the open and not having to look through a visor and a windshield.
“The hardest adjustment was just knowing how hard you can push, and what the limits are of sliding the car. When we run [the road courses at] Watkins Glen or Sonoma, the whole race is about sliding around the corners. After spinning out at about 30 mph over there, I was really timid to push the car any harder in the fast corners.”
Dixon said he didn’t need to drive a Sprint Cup car to respect NASCAR drivers. His respect comes from seeing how difficult it is for IndyCar drivers to be successful in moving to NASCAR.
“In IndyCar, you have teammates and you sit down after every practice and go over data [from on-board telemetry] and try to work out where you can improve,” Dixon said. “To be honest, no data [from telemetry in NASCAR] and teammates you don’t get to see a lot because it’s so divided would make the learning curve tough.”