Concord, NC (May 25, 2009) – In a wild weekend revolving around weather and Mother Nature, Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 IRWIN VISE-GRIP Ford found himself finishing 21st in the Coca-Cola 600. Monday’s race was originally scheduled to be run Sunday night at Charlotte, but after scattered showers battered the region throughout the course of the weekend’s events, the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 was postponed until noon on Memorial Day. The race ended after just 227 laps were completed of the scheduled 400-lap event due to numerous rain showers in the area that eventually forced NASCAR officials to call the race.
McMurray began the weekend’s practice with a car that he described as incredibly tight and the team spent Thursday’s practice session testing various set-ups to improve the IRWIN VISE-GRIP Ford’s handling. The No. 26 team focused their efforts on making sure that the car’s race set-up had as much versatility in its handling as possible since the race was the longest on the season’s schedule, being a 600-mile event. Track conditions change so much during the course of this race that McMurray and his team made sure that they would have a car that also adjusted to those changing conditions.
The green flag finally waved on Monday at 12:12 p.m. EST to start the 400-lap event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway with McMurray rolling off from the 33rd position. The overcast skies threatened the field with rain but the race was able to get seven laps in the books before the first caution of the day came for rain on lap eight. The IRWIN VISE-GRIP Ford had gained six positions in the opening run and as McMurray had a moment under yellow, he radioed in to crew chief Donnie Wingo that the car was “a little loose, but pretty good overall if I can just get out of all this traffic.”
The field restarted on lap twelve with the No. 26 Ford in the 25th position and quickly claimed three positions in just four laps. McMurray drove his way up to the 20th position before NASCAR threw a competition caution after lap 40 in order to ensure that the track was safe for the competitors. The break in the action allowed Wingo to call his driver to stall 24 on pit road for a four-tire and fuel stop where the team also made an adjustment to the track bar and pulled tape from the brakes.
Following the restart on lap 45, the crowd experienced their second bout with Mother Nature’s showers and the yellow caution flag was displayed on lap 71 for rain showers. McMurray once again radioed in to his IRWIN VISE-GRIP team that the car was tight and that he was unable to get underneath other cars in order to pass them. Wingo opted for a two tire change on lap 73 along with fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Unfortunately the second red flag of the race came just after the team’s pit stop and lasted for 57 minutes while service vehicles dried the track surface.
Thanks to the two-tire stop, McMurray found himself parked in the fourth position during the red flag and when the field finally got the command to restart on lap 80, the IRWIN VISE-GRIP Ford restarted near the front of the pack. By lap 100 however, McMurray called in to his team that that car was tight in the entry and free off the turns and the handling woes began to take their toll on McMurray’s track position as he fell to 13th by lap 107.
McMurray held on to the 13th and 14th positions for the next few runs while the IRWIN VISE-GRIP team continued to make a few adjustments targeted at maximizing the car’s handling. During lap 147, McMurray’s spotter told him that he was running the fastest lap times of the field even after McMurray had radioed to his team that the car’s brakes were very hot.
The entire field came under caution during lap 164 to hold a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. EST to honor those who have served in the United States military. Crew members lined up side-by-side along the length of pit road, and the drivers parked their cars along the frontstretch and shut off their engines to celebrate Memorial Day.
The field restarted the race, and McMurray found himself once again battling for track position as eyes turned towards the skies once again with the threat of rain. Still facing a tightness issue, when the caution came out on lap 222 for rain, Wingo opted to bring his driver down pit road for a four tire pit stop along with another round of air pressure adjustments. Several teams decided to play the card of pit strategy with the rain, but the IRWIN VISE-GRIP team wanted to ensure that they were doing all that they could for their driver during the abnormal race that was unfolding.
Unfortunately, the rain continued and forced NASCAR to red flag the event after lap 227 and after almost two hours of delay, NASCAR called the race. McMurray was forced to finish 21st after spending most of the race in the 13th position, but all was not lost for the team as McMurray gained three positions in the driver point standings.
“This was a really wild race today,” said McMurray after the race. “Our IRWIN VISE-GRIP Ford was tight for much of the race, but overall, I thought that it raced well and I just wish that we could have had the opportunity to have had more clean air under our nose. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get the entire race in this weekend, but it was a great opportunity to salute all our soldiers today on this Memorial Day holiday. ”
David Reutimann won Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway making it his first win in the Sprint Cup Series. Reutimann held on to win the rain-shortened event after his team decided to stay out on a caution that eventually turned into the final red flag of the event. Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon rounded out the top-three finishers Monday evening, while McMurray finished 21st in his IRWIN VISE-GRIP Ford.
Next weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Dover International Speedway for the Autism Speaks 400. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, May 31st at 1:30p.m. EST on FOX. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network.
Autism Speaks 400
Dover International Speedway (1.0-mile speedway)
Sunday, May 31, 2009