DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 7, 2009) – Jamie McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal team were eager to get back on track for the start of the 2009 season. After a strong finish to the 2008 season, McMurray and his team looked ahead to the start of 2009 with anticipation. Momentum was on their side along with the reunification of McMurray and crew chief Donnie Wingo, the team had a lot to prove Saturday night in the Budweiser Shootout. The Crown Royal Ford Fusion drove away with a second-place finish after a last lap caution caught McMurray in second.
The Budweiser Shootout at Daytona is an annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series exhibition event held at Daytona International Speedway in February the weekend before the Daytona 500. It began as the 'Busch Clash' and was a fifty-mile "all-out sprint." In its current format, it is made up of two segments: a short 25-lap segment, followed by a ten-minute intermission. After the intermission, the race concludes with a 50-lap segment in which each car will need to make a pit stop for fuel.
The race carries no points for the winner, but rather a large purse. The smaller, invitation-only field consists of 28 cars which is made up of the top six teams of each manufacturer from the previous year, and four "wild cards." The starting lineup is determined by a random draw, not by qualifying as all other races are determined.
McMurray drew the 15th starting position at the draw party earlier in the week and as the green flag waved to start the race, McMurray had his eyes fixed on the front of the field. During the opening laps as the cars got up to speed, the Crown Royal Ford jockeyed for position as the draft began to form, but on lap four, a six-car wreck occurred. The break in the action allowed McMurray to radio in to crew chief Donnie Wingo that the car “drives really good and it’s definitely fast.”
By lap 12, McMurray began to notice that as the temperatures fell, the No. 26 began to get tight on the exits of the turns and after being shuffled back towards the rear of the pack, McMurray began his steady assent to the front of the field. On lap 20, the Crown Royal Ford Fusion was scored in fifth as three-wide racing raged on. McMurray rocketed his way up to second by lap 22 as the second caution of the night came. McMurray took the opportunity under the yellow flag to radio in to his team that the No. 26 machine “has an awesome motor, it just drives amazing and I think we have the best car out here tonight.”
At the end of the first 25-lap segment, the field came down pit road for a routine four tire pit stop before the ten minute break began for teams to work on their cars in the pits. The Crown Royal team used the time allotted to double-check the car for any damage as well as to clean the grill.
The field restarted on lap 26 with McMurray scored in the second position as they came to the green flag for the final 50-lap segment. McMurray was scored as the race leader on lap 26 as the field began to challenge for his position. On lap 32, the third caution of the night happened in turn two and Wingo decided to use this caution as a chance to make a two-tire stop. The No. 26 came to pit road on lap 33 for right-side tires and fuel before restarting third on lap 36. Another caution came immediately after the restart and following that fourth caution of the night, McMurray and the Crown Royal Ford spent the next 20 laps fighting for track position as drafting partners became scarce.
A caution on lap 55 allowed McMurray to visit pit road for four tires and fuel after he had radioed in to Wingo about the need for the car to be tighter on the next run. McMurray continued to combat the tight handling of his car, but by lap 63, the Crown Royal Ford had jumped into second and then secured the lead after a caution on lap 65 showed the No. 26 as the race leader.
With seven scheduled laps remaining in the race, the action kicked up as it became a race of every man for himself. A caution on lap 74 set up the race finale as a green-white-checkered finish with McMurray restarting in first. The Crown Royal Ford jumped off the restart line and began to use blocking to hold off the cars on its bumper in the final laps of the race, but on the final lap, a four-car accident in turn four allowed the No. 29 to slip past McMurray to claim the win.
“This was a great way to get our weekends started that’s for sure,” commented McMurray following the race. “The racing was pretty wild tonight. Three-wide racing was OK on new tires, but it seemed like when you got old tires, a lot of cars had to slow down getting in the corner, but our car was so fast all night. It’s the first race that Donnie has returned as my crew chief in the last three years and he did a really good job. Everybody on our Crown Royal team did a good job and so I certainly feel good about our car for the Daytona 500 next weekend.”
Kevin Harvick won Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway as he held off McMurray for the win on the final lap. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the other top-5 finishers Saturday evening.
Next week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series begins the 2009 regular season at Daytona International Speedway for the 51st running of the Daytona 500. The Gatorade Duel is the preliminary event to the Daytona 500. The Duel consists of two 150-mile races, and serves as a qualifying race for the Daytona 500. The finishing order in the two 150-mile races, will determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. Pre-race television coverage begins on Thursday, February 12th at 2:00 p.m. E.S.T. on SPEED. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN).
Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile speedway)
Daytona Beach, Fl.
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009