INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 27, 2008) – In an afternoon marred by tire problems, the No. 26 Crown Royal team rose above the obstacle to finish a season-best sixth place. The No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion piloted by Jamie McMurray, qualified in the top 10, and took the checkered flag in the top-10 position. This afternoon’s finish moved McMurray to 20th in the Sprint Cup point standings.
After a well-deserved weekend off, the No. 26 Crown Royal team unloaded on Friday morning at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After two solid practices on Friday afternoon, the team posted the sixth-fastest time in Saturday morning’s qualifying session; which would start the team on the outside of row number three for the start on Sunday afternoon.
Before a crowd of more than 200,000 fans, the green flag flew for pole winner, and eventual race winner, Jimmie Johnson. McMurray, who started the race from the sixth position immediately moved to the preferred racing groove – the inside line.
During practice on Saturday afternoon, Sprint Cup teams realized they could not go more than four or five laps on new tires before they began to show significant signs of wear. The abnormal wear in the tires led NASCAR to call for a “competition caution” on lap 14 of the race. During the needed pit stop, NASCAR teams up and down pit road noticed a major problem – the tires were unable to go more than 10 or 12 laps before they would be left with nothing.
As the problem escalated, NASCAR stepped in and called for another caution period just 12 laps later on lap 29. Again, the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford came down pit road for four fresh tires, and fuel. McMurray returned to the track scored in the ninth position.
Following the pit stop, crew chief Larry Carter came over the radio and told McMurray, “we need to finish today’s race. I think we are in a good position, and if we can maintain our track position, and save our car, I think we can come out of here with a good finish. There are a lot of unknowns this afternoon, but if we all work together, we can make the most of today, and show a good finish this afternoon.”
The problems continued for all the teams – the tires would not hold up after 12 laps of green-flag racing.
The No. 26 team continued to follow the instructions of NASCAR by coming in every 12 laps and taking on new tires. Occasionally, Carter would call for two tires, and others it would be four tires and fuel. Regardless of the call made in the pits, the No. 26 Crown Royal pit crew stuck together and knocked out some of their fastest stops of the season.
During the final pit stop of the afternoon, Carter called for a two-tire stop as McMurray entered the pits in the ninth position. After clicking off a 5.8-second stop, the No. 26 pit crew gained two positions for McMurray, as he returned to the track in seventh place.
With just seven laps remaining in this afternoon’s race at the Brickyard, McMurray was able to pick up an additional position to finish a season best sixth place.
“It’s just frustrating this afternoon,” said McMurray following the race. “They said the track was getting better in happy hour, but we didn’t see that and it never really did take rubber. I got really mad in the middle because they were letting us run until the tires were blowing up and I’m like, ‘You can’t put us in that situation.’ You’ve got to throw the caution before we blow a tire because if someone gets hurt, we could have prevented that. Thankfully, they let us run about 12 laps and they’d throw the caution. Just about every time the caution would come out, the lap before I’d be like, ‘I’m done. Here it is.’ That’s an odd way to race. In the end, it was a great afternoon for this No. 26 team and for Crown Royal.”
This afternoon’s finish moved McMurray up two positions in the Sprint Cup point standings to 20th. Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway for the second time this season. The action begins at 2:00pm on ESPN and MRN Radio.
Pocono Raceway (2.50-mile speedway)
Long Pond, Pa.
Sunday, August 3, 2008