Brooklyn, MI (June 14, 2009) – Racing at Michigan International Speedway is considered one of Roush Fenway Racing’s “home tracks” since Ford Motor Company and Roush Industries are headquartered in the region. Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion came to Michigan eager to earn a solid finish at a track where Roush Fenway has had tremendous success at. Following a disappointing qualifying effort on Friday afternoon, the team looked ahead to Sunday’s race to rebound. In a race where fuel mileage and pit strategy became the deciding factor, McMurray and the Crown Royal Ford drove off with an 11th-place finish Sunday.
Entering the weekend at Michigan International Speedway, Sprint Cup Series teams were anxious to see how the newly instituted double-file restart would affect racing at the two-mile track. Instead of the race being decided by the restarts, the race winner was determined by fuel mileage in the final laps of the race. McMurray and his team knew that fuel mileage was important at Michigan, but they spent their practice sessions ensuring that the car’s set-up was to their driver’s liking. Weather on Friday and Saturday was overcast and found teams working under cooler temperatures and track settings than Sunday’s forecast of sunny skies and much warmer thermometer readings. This change in track condition found many teams trying to readjust their cars before the start of Sunday’s race.
McMurray rolled off the starting grid for the LifeLock 400 from the 31st starting position when the green flag waved at 2:20 p.m. EST as the 43-car field roared to life. McMurray drove his way up to 23rd within the opening ten laps of the race even with the challenge of three-wide racing. Michigan allows drivers numerous lines to race on which means that there’s plenty of room to pass and advance through the field while also causing a lot of jockeying for position off the starts. During the opening run, McMurray radioed in to his crew chief Donnie Wingo that the car was tight and needed help to loosen it up both in and out of the corners. Wingo made a note of the handling, and the team prepared for adjustments whenever the opportunity arose for the first pit stop of the afternoon.
Green flag stops began to cycle through the field during lap 37 and Wingo called his driver down pit road on lap 40 for four tires, fuel, a track bar and air pressure adjustment. McMurray rejoined the field in 26th and advanced up to 22nd before the first caution of the race came on lap 73 for debris. Wingo asked his driver if the changes had helped the Crown Royal Ford’s handling, and McMurray said that the car was still loose during the run, but handled better than it had at the start of the race. Wingo opted to make similar changes to the No. 26 machine on lap 75 with four fresh tires, fuel, and another round of air pressure changes. The Crown Royal pit crew knocked out a fast stop that allowed McMurray to gain two positions off of pit road when the field returned under green on lap 78.
Another series of pit stops under green began around lap 114 and McMurray came in for service on lap 118 for a track bar and air pressure adjustment on their four-tire stop. The fast pit stop found the Crown Royal Ford gaining another position after the field cycled through their pit stops, and by lap 120, McMurray was 17th. The No. 26 machine was still enduring loose-handling issues and luckily the second caution of the afternoon came on lap 122, and allowed Wingo to make one more series of adjustments to the car. Following the stop, McMurray drove up to the 11th position on the leader board before the yellow caution flag waved once more. The stellar Crown Royal pit crew swung into action and their lightening-fast stop allowed McMurray to gain two more spots to the race leaders when he restarted ninth on lap 157.
With 40 laps remaining in the race, Wingo asked his driver to be smart with his fuel usage because he believed that they could make it to the end of the race without having the stop for additional fuel. McMurray heeding the request while also constantly eyes those competitors who were vying for his position on the track.
The final ten laps of the race proved everyone’s worst fears as both the first and second place cars that had been battling for position, both found themselves run out of Sunoco fuel. As the leader crossed the line, McMurray and his Crown Royal Ford Fusion earned an 11th-place finish Sunday in the LifeLock 400 at Michigan and gained three positions in the driver point standings to 19th.
“We just had a pretty loose car this afternoon,” said McMurray after the race. “We had a disappointing qualifying run, so that put us further back in the field for the start of the race and we had to fight our way up towards the front. We made adjustments to tighten the car up, and our pit crew had a great series of fast stops today, so it was a team effort that led our Crown Royal team to finish 11th today.”
Mark Martin won Sunday’s LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway and found himself with his third win of the season. Martin claimed the win after race leaders Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson both ran out of fuel in the closing laps. Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin rounded out Sunday’s top-three finishers, while McMurray finished 11th in his No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion.
Next weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels west to California for the first road course race of the 2009 season at Infineon Raceway. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, June 21st at 3:30p.m. EST on TNT. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network.
Toyota/Save Mart 350
Infineon Raceway (1.99-mile speedway)
Sunday, June 21, 2009