CONCORD, N.C. (November 25, 2008) – Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray finished the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season with huge momentum going into the off season. In the final six races of 2008, McMurray finished with five top-10 finishes, with four of those finishes in the top five. After bad luck plagued the No. 26 Crown Royal / IRWIN Industrial Tools team for most of 2008, the duo of Larry Carter and McMurray proved in the end just how strong the No. 26 team could run.
“It was a long season for the No. 26 Crown Royal / IRWIN Industrial Tools team,” said McMurray. “If I had to sum up our season, I’d say that we got off to a very unfortunate start, built ourselves back up over the summer, hit a run of bad luck, but with fast cars, and then in the end ran some really great races. Larry and Derek (Stamets) made some incredible calls in those final races that put us in a great position to win a couple of times. All season long we had fast cars and solid pit stops, but just couldn’t seem to put everything together.”
In their second year of working together, McMurray and Carter teamed up for a great run in 2008. The season opening races in Daytona were not the start to the 2008 season the No. 26 Crown Royal team looked for. After being wrecked in the Shootout and then again in the qualifying duels, the team was forced to use its third backup car in the season opening Daytona 500. After a disappointing 26th-place finish, the team headed west to Fontana.
The bad luck continued for McMurray and the No. 26 team at Fontana, Vegas and Atlanta. Entering Bristol in March, the team felt the bad luck was behind them, but unfortunately the streak continued as McMurray was wrecked again by rookie Dario Franchitti, which left the No. 26 team with a 43rd-place finish and 36th in the point standings.
Entering Martinsville weekend two weeks later and determined to have a good run, McMurray qualified fifth and finished the race eighth, which propelled him back into the top 35 in points.
With his top-10 finish in Martinsville and a top-15 finish in Texas, McMurray moved to 25th in the point standings. The following weeks at Phoenix and Talladega, McMurray added a pair of 17th-place finishes to the scoreboard.
McMurray picked up another top-10 finish at Dover after qualifying fifth in the spring race. Two weeks later at Michigan on Father’s Day weekend, McMurray had a chance to win the race, but was forced to settle for a 10th-place finish when a late caution flag brought the No. 26 car down pit road for fuel.
“I thought we had a great chance of winning the Michigan race,” said McMurray. “Had the caution flag not come out, I thought we had something for the No. 88, but when it did, Larry made the right call in having us pit for fuel. The way our season had been going, the last thing we needed was to run out of gas on the restart and end up with a 30th-place finish. Instead, we came in for fuel and ended up with a top-10 finish on Father’s Day weekend.”
The following weekend, the Sprint Cup series returned to Sonoma, a track that McMurray keeps circled on the race calendar. After running second for most of the race, the No. 26 car was taken out by the No. 29 car with just a handful of laps remaining in the event. A heartbreak two years in a row, as the year before the No. 26 machine ran out of fuel with just two laps remaining in the race.
As the season reached the midpoint at Daytona just two weeks later, the No. 26 team and McMurray had moved up to 23rd in the points, but still weren’t happy with the season.
“It just seemed we couldn’t get the ball rolling with our season,” said McMurray. “We had the cars, great engines, but something just wasn’t clicking for us.”
After a decent run at Chicagoland Speedway, the season returned to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. McMurray finished a season-best sixth place at the 2.5-mile speedway. The following weekend in Pocono, McMurray backed up that finish with a ninth-place finish.
In Watkins Glen the following weekend, McMurray posted a 16th-place finish, followed by another top-10 finish at Michigan International Speedway. The next few races saw many up and downs for McMurray and No. 26 Crown Royal team. At Bristol, the team finished 12th, followed by a weekend of bad luck when McMurray cut down a tire while running seventh at California Speedway. McMurray was able to finish the race, but came home 24th.
At Richmond the following weekend, McMurray finished 29th after a hurricane threat moved the race to Sunday afternoon. In his second visit to New Hampshire, McMurray was caught in a wreck and finished 39th.
“Even at Richmond, Fontana and Loudon, we had really fast race cars,” said McMurray. “We’d unload and our cars would be quick from the start, but something happened in each of the races. The following weekend in Dover, we were running third and were taken out of the race by a lap down car. Looking back on it, I think Dover was one of the fastest race cars I’ve ever had. It was one of those special days, but it ended early.”
Back at Talladega for the fall race, McMurray was taken out of contention after being clipped in the left front while running in fifth position. The following weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, McMurray captured his first top-five finish of the season.
It seemed no matter what the No. 26 team did, they couldn’t seem to shake the bit of bad luck on their side. In Martinsville while running fifth, McMurray had a rear gear failure and left the race with an upsetting 38th-place finish.
In the final four races of the season, McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal put together some of their best racing of the season. After finishing seventh at Atlanta, McMurray went on to finish third at Texas, Phoenix and at the season finale Homestead-Miami.
Looking back on the season, as McMurray sat in the media center on Sunday night following the race, he told reporters, “If you really looked back and paid attention to our team, for the last three months we've had just really fast cars and just didn't really have much to show for it, and for the last two months we've had things just kind of go our way and then, obviously, the last month has just been incredible. Even when I was with Ganassi and could contend to make the ‘Chase,’ I didn't run as well as I am right now. It's by far the best I've run in my career. It just seems like every week you have a chance to win, so it's a lot of fun to get to run that well, but the same thing when the season started - everybody was asking me what was wrong and I'm not doing anything different now. I think I'm able to communicate with the crew chief and the engineer better to make better adjustments and when the race starts, the cars are just faster. I tell you, if we could have qualified for the five or six races that rained out, we would have qualified well and we would have raced better in those races, but when you have to start back in the 20s, it takes forever to get to the front and you just have to race differently."
Away from the track this season, McMurray continued to raise funds for the Jamie McMurray Foundation, which in 2008 raised over $200,000 in support of autism research and awareness.
“This was a great year for the Jamie McMurray Foundation,” said McMurray. “We held the Third Annual JMF Golf Tournament, but this was the first year that we planned everything. I’m pleased to say that we raised over $115,000 and had more than 110 golfers play in the tournament. It was a huge success and raised a lot of money for autism awareness.”
The 2008 season marked the final season for Larry Carter atop the pit box. Next season he will serve as the crew chief for Paul Menard at Yates Racing. Although it hasn’t been announced who will lead the No. 26 team, McMurray is already looking forward to Daytona in February.
“If you look over the years, the guys who finish the season typically start the next season really strong,” said McMurray. “I’m very confident in Roush Fenway, Ford Racing, Crown Royal and IRWIN going into next season. If we can start the season out on the right foot next year, I know it will be a great season for myself and the entire No. 26 team.”
Jamie McMurray – 2008 Stats:
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Jamie McMurray – Career Stats:
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About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Travis Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com. For sponsorship inquiries, please contact Robin Johnson at 704.720.4645.