FONTANA, Calif. (August 31, 2008) – Misfortune struck early tonight for Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray and his No. 26 Crown Royal team. After qualifying 13th for tonight’s 250-lap race at the Auto Club Speedway, the No. 26 looked poised for another good run at the two-mile speedway. However, when McMurray cut down a tire on lap two and was forced to pit, the team ultimately gave up 30 positions and went a lap down in the process. When the checkered flag finally flew, the No. 26 team was left with a disappointing 24th-place finish.
The weekend in Fontana, Calif. started well for the No. 26 Crown Royal team. After coming off of five great finishes, the team was excited about their run at the two-mile speedway. After qualifying 13th on Friday, two solid practices on Saturday afternoon, and a top-five finish for McMurray in the Nationwide race the evening before, the stage was set for an exciting night at the Auto Club Speedway.
The green flag flew for pole winner, and eventual race winner, Jimmie Johnson at 5:19pm (Pacific). McMurray immediately found his way to the high line and on the first lap picked up one position. However, as the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion exited turn two, McMurray knew something wasn’t right – the left front tire was going down. With the help of his spotter, McMurray was able to move to the apron of the track, but not before the No. 26 machine received extensive damage to the left front fender.
When the caution flag was displayed for debris on the track, McMurray brought his No. 26 Crown Royal Ford down pit road to an awaiting team to replace the left side tires and begin work on the fender. After a lengthy pit stop, crew chief Larry Carter instructed McMurray to make one lap around the track and then come back down pit road so the team could finish the repair.
During the next pit stop, Carter determined the damage was too extensive and would need additional time to fix. As the pace car led the field down the frontstretch, McMurray went one lap down. After the team completed the repair, McMurray returned to the speedway scored in the 43rd position and one lap down.
Over the course of the next run, McMurray noted the handling of his No. 26 Ford continued to get worse, and asked Carter for major changes during the next stop. Luckily for the No. 26 team the next caution flag was not far behind. On lap 22, the caution was displayed for debris in turn two. The much needed caution rewarded McMurray with the “Lucky Dog” pass, as well as giving his crew a chance to work on the handling of McMurray’s car.
After a wholesale of changes, McMurray radioed into Carter noting the handling was still “extremely loose.” Over the course of next five pit stops, Carter and team engineer Derek Stamets continued to try various setups to help tighten up McMurray’s car.
As the race went on, McMurray was able to make strides, but not enough to move him back into the top-20. After 250 grueling laps, McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal team were left with a 24th-place finish.
“It’s pretty disappointing to have your night end before you even complete two laps of the race,“ said McMurray after exiting from his No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion. “Coming into tonight’s race, I thought we had a really good shot of running well. After we had the tire go down, we just couldn’t seem to get a handle on our car. Larry and Derek did everything they could, but it just didn’t seem to help. Hopefully, we can put this weekend behind and move onto Richmond next weekend.”
Following tonight’s race at the Auto Club Speedway, McMurray remains 18th in the Sprint Cup point standings and only 216 points out of 15th. Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Richmond International Raceway for 400 laps of racing “under the lights.” The action begins at 7pm (Eastern) on both MRN radio affiliates and ESPN television.
Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile speedway)
September 6, 2009