MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 29, 2009) – After a rainy start to the weekend in Martinsville, Virginia, Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford Fusion drove off with a Top-10 finish Sunday evening. McMurray ranks racing at Martinsville Speedway as one of his favorite tracks on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, he’s achieved one Top-5 and seven Top-10 finishes in twelve starts at Martinsville prior to Sunday’s start. The No. 26 team was looking forward to improving upon those results in the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500, and they were able to accomplish a solid finish after weather canceled the majority of the Cup series practice sessions throughout the weekend. McMurray was able to pilot the IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford to a tenth-place finish Sunday and improved his position in the driver point standings by six spots.
With a weekend weather forecast that looked dismal, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took to the track Friday for the first practice session at Martinsville Speedway. McMurray and his No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools team focused the majority of their efforts on race trim as clouds overhead threatened to open up later that afternoon. With the looming showers on the horizon, the No. 26 team realized that qualifying might be cancelled, so they wanted to make sure that the car was handling well in race set-up before they made a few mock qualifying laps at the end of practice.
Mother Nature brought on the rain to the Martinsville, Virginia region shortly after practice Friday and the persistent showers forced officials to cancel both Cup series practice sessions Saturday as well. Even with only the single practice session under their belts, McMurray and his team felt confident about their IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford as they headed into Sunday’s race.
The starting grid for the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 was set according to the NASCAR rule book so McMurray was forced to begin 28th at a speedway where starting position is crucial in order to avoid falling a lap down to the race leaders early on. McMurray and his team felt that they had a strong car that could be a contender at the end of Sunday’s 500 laps.
The field came to the green flag at 2:16 p.m. EST under sunny skies which had appeared for the first time all weekend. At a track where track position is everything, McMurray knew he had his work cut out for him as he quietly focused on the field ahead of him. The paper clip shape that Martinsville Speedway is known for makes it difficult for drivers to pass as readily as they can at oval tracks. The No. 26 Ford was fast, but McMurray knew that in order to claim the positions he wanted, patience would need to be in his arsenal for the 500 lap- race.
The first caution of the race came during lap 21 and crew chief Donnie Wingo radioed to his driver to see how the car’s handling had been during the opening run. McMurray replied that the IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford was a bit tight in the middle and exit of the turns. Wingo decided to bring the No. 26 Ford down pit road on lap 23 for a track bar adjustment as well as a two-tire stop. NASCAR called for a competition caution on lap 40 so Wingo and his team had to wait until the caution on lap 40 in order to fuel the car.
McMurray continued to fight a tight-handling car for the next several runs, but the IRWIN Industrial Tools pit crew performed several great stops which allowed McMurray to gain positions on pit road. By lap 200, McMurray called in to his team that the car was now a bit loose on the entry of the turns. McMurray gained positions on the leader board following a pit stop on lap 257 when he restarted in twelfth, and he held on to that spot all the way until the closing laps of the race. The team focused their efforts on quick and accurate pit stops, and in the end, the combination of McMurray’s determination, along with the pit crew’s efficiency, landed the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford a 10th-place finish Sunday.
“That was a pretty good finish for us today,” said McMurray following the race. “We started so far in the back and typically I run well here, but without qualifying Friday, that really hurt us. I always qualify well at Martinsville and it makes it so much easier when you’re up front at a place like this. Our car had a tremendous amount of speed in it, but I just could not pass. I could catch guys pretty easy but we struggled just to get track position. We had really good pit stops all afternoon and that helped us out a lot when it came to improving our position.”
Jimmie Johnson won Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway after a pass on lap 485 launched him past Denny Hamlin for the win. Virginia-native Hamlin finished second after he had led for a total of 296 laps. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five finishers.
Next weekend the Sprint Cup Series travels to the state of Texas for the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, April 4th at 1:30 p.m. E.S.T. on FOX. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN).
Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile speedway)
Ft. Worth, TX
Sunday, April 4, 2009