LAS VEGAS, NV (March 1, 2009) – Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford, entered this weekend’s events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a little under the weather, but that didn’t slow him down from wanting to bring home his first strong finish of the 2009 season. After a disappointing qualifying effort, McMurray showcased his driving prowess Sunday afternoon in a wild race filled with cautions to finish ninth and earn his first top-10 finish of the year.
McMurray and his IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford began Sunday’s race from the 38th starting position and as the green flag waved for the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, McMurray focused on driving his Ford through the field to gain track position. There were two cautions within the opening ten laps which delayed how quickly McMurray was able to nab positions, but by lap 25, the No. 26 machine was scored within the top 20.
McMurray spent the opening runs of the race quiet over the team radio as he developed his rhythm and locked his sights in on the next available position with ease it appeared. Finally around lap 30, McMurray called in to his crew chief Donnie Wingo that the car was really good, but just a little tight. Wingo called his driver down pit road on lap 53 for a routine four tire pit stop while green-flagged pit stops cycled through the field. McMurray was 14th at the time and the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools pit crew allowed him to hold on to that position as he rejoined the field.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is known for being fast off the turns and drivers spend a lot of their practice time throughout the weekend ensuring that their car handles well in the turns. During lap 66, McMurray showcased his driving skills after he got tapped in the left rear which forced the No. 26 to get loose. McMurray skillfully corrected his car to the amazement of himself and his crew. The miraculous save allowed the IRWIN Ford to remain unscathed although McMurray dropped to 25th on the leader board.
McMurray’s spotter calmly reassured his driver to get back into his rhythm in order to get the track position back which had been lost, and McMurray did just that. The IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford pitted on lap 76 under caution for four fresh Goodyear tires since those that were on the car has been worn down due to the slide on lap 66. The No. 26 Ford continued to grab position after position as the laps went on. A strategic pit road decision by Wingo on lap 97, found McMurray in ninth after a two tire stop allowed him to gain five spots off pit road.
Around lap 100, Wingo asked his driver to be smart with the engine of the car after a few fellow Roush Fenway Racing teammates had experienced trouble early in the race. McMurray took note and the team knew that the overall goal for the day was to finish the race without running into any problems.
Even with the focus on saving power, McMurray continued to climb higher on the leader board and by lap 125, the IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford was in sixth. Wingo called McMurray to pit road on lap 125 under caution for four tires and fuel, and the No. 26 pit crew clicked off another stellar stop that gained their driver two positions to the race leaders as he restarted in fourth.
McMurray continued to focus on the task at hand of bringing home a top-10 finish for his team as the race continued. Wingo reminded his driver to keep saving the motor as numerous contenders in the race found themselves heading to the garage for repairs. The No. 26 Ford kept fighting for position for the remainder of the race. The caution-filled race ended with a green-white-checkered finish as McMurray and his No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford crossed the Finish line in ninth place.
“I’m really happy with our finish today,” commented McMurray following the race. “It was a wild race today there for me because I still can’t believe that I was able to hold onto our car when I got loose after being tapped. We had an amazing car today that got a little tight towards the end, but our goal was to finish the race and bring home a great finish without running into any difficulties. We were able to run a smart race today and my crew had some really great pit stops today that allowed us to gain track position. It was a great finish for our IRWIN Industrial Tools team, and it gives us a lot of momentum heading into next week.”
Kyle Busch won Sunday’s Shelby 427 at his hometown track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch was able to hold off Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton, who finished second and third respectively, during the green-white-checkered finish.
Next week the Sprint Cup Series travels back East to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, March 8th at 1:30 p.m. E.S.T. on FOX. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN).
Kobalt Tools 500
Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile speedway)
Sunday, March 8, 2009