DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 15, 2009) – Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion had been eagerly awaiting the official start to the 2009 Sprint Cup Series season. Unfortunately, a multi-car wreck during the Daytona 500 on Sunday found McMurray and his team finishing 37th in the 51st running of the historic race.
McMurray had an eventful Speedweeks at Daytona after nearly winning the Budweiser Shootout event and then showcasing another strong performance during the Gatorade Duel. The Crown Royal team was forced to use their car from the Shootout after a collision in practice prior to the Duel occurred and caused heavy damage to their initial primary car. The team chose to utilize the Shootout car for Sunday’s race and McMurray qualified 21st and started on row eleven as the field came to the green flag at 3:42 p.m. EST under overcast skies as forecasters predicted rain.
In the opening laps, the Crown Royal Ford jockeyed for position as the 43-car field raced three-wide. The first caution of the day came early during lap nine and McMurray took the opportunity under yellow to radio in to crew chief Donnie Wingo that the car was “very fast but just a little tight in the center.” Wingo chose to not call his driver to pit road since NASCAR had told teams that a competition caution would come after the 25th lap and teams would not be allowed to fuel their cars until then. The strategic call worked for McMurray as he jumped from 22nd up to eighth on the restart.
The No. 26 machine earned three more positions on the leader board before the competition caution came on lap 26 as McMurray came to pit road for a four tire stop as well as a slight air pressure change. The Crown Royal Ford restarted in 14th on lap 30 and remained in that position until the next caution came during lap 55. Wingo once again called his driver to the pits for a four tire stop in which the Crown Royal pit crew gained McMurray five spots to the race leaders due to the incredibly fast stop.
Following the restart, McMurray nabbed the fourth position and held on to his place within the top five for the next few runs as the field began to shuffle drafting partners. During lap 48 McMurray called in over team radio communications that his car “drives really well, but all these other cars are holding us up.”
Green flag pit stops began around lap 115 but as the field was beginning to cycle through stops, the fifth caution of the afternoon came for debris and allowed the team to pit for tires and fuel under yellow. The No. 26 restarted seventh on lap 124, but during that lap the front of the pack got caught up in a wild multi-car wreck coming off turn two after the No. 88 and No. 83 set off a melee of cars spinning out of control.
McMurray and his Crown Royal Ford fell victim to the disaster and after a wild ride across the grass on the backstretch, the No. 26 Ford drove into the garage for extensive repairs. The Crown Royal pit crew swung into action quickly repairing the car as the field remained under caution while safety crews cleaned up the debris. These additional laps under yellow allowed the team to do their repairs while not losing as many laps to the race leader.
The team was able to repair the car enough to allow McMurray to rejoin the field by lap 136 in the 38th position and 13 laps down to the lead lap. The seventh caution of the day came on lap 139 and Wingo called McMurray to pit road in order ensure that all the repairs had remainined intact as well as to fuel up the car. The field restarted on lap 143 but the final caution of the day came just a few laps later and during those yellow-flagged laps, rain drops began to fall on the speedway.
After six laps of caution laps, NASCAR finally pulled the field down pit road and allowed teams to cover their cars as the rain began to fall harder on Daytona. NASCAR officials finally called the race due to rain and declared fellow Roush Fenway Racing driver, Matt Kenseth as the race winner.
“We had such a fast car today,” commented McMurray following the race. “This car handled so well for us this week and it’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to see it’s full potential today after we got caught up in that wreck. I have to thank my team though because we had some really great pit stops today that allowed us to gain a few positions and the guys also worked really hard to get us back out on the track after making some pretty major repairs. You never know what’s going to happen when you come speedway racing, and we’ll just look ahead to next week and Fontana for our Crown Royal team.”
Matt Kenseth won the rain-shortened Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway before an estimated crowd of 180,000. Kevin Harvick and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-three finishers Sunday evening, and McMurray left Daytona with a 37th-place finished in his No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion.
Next week the Sprint Cup Series travels out West to Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 500. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, February 22nd at 5:00 p.m. E.S.T. on FOX. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN).
Auto Club 500
Auto Club Speedway (2.0-mile speedway)
Sunday, Feb. 22,