FT. WORTH, TX – Jamie McMurray and the No. 16 CitiFinancial team were the model of perseverance during Saturday’s Nationwide Series race from Texas Motor Speedway as they took a car that was 28th fastest in practice and brought it home fifth in the O’Reilly 300. Timely cautions and strong pit strategy helped McMurray earn his first top-five finish of the season.
The CitiFinancial team struggled during practice. Rain condensed two practice sessions into one and by the end, the CitiFinancial team was virtually out of ideas for how to make the car better. Heavy rain set in and cancelled qualifying. The field was set by owner’s points and McMurray lined up 15th.
Early on during the race, McMurray told crew chief Eddie Pardue he was “pretty loose.” McMurray held his ground and broke into the top-10 on lap 19. A long green flag run set in and the CitiFinancial Ford Fusion was running ninth when McMurray hit pit road for the first time of the day. Under green, the CitiFinancial team gave McMurray four tires and a wedge adjustment. The stops cycled through without incident and McMurray was again shown in ninth.
The CitiFinancial Ford Fusion had gotten “a little tight off” around lap 83, but McMurray was still running consistently in the top-10. The car was “still pretty tight” when the caution flew on lap 91. McMurray came down pit road 10th and received four tires and an air pressure adjustment. The CitiFinancial Ford Fusion restarted 10th with just over 100 laps remaining in the race.
During the next run, the once-tight CitiFinancial Ford Fusion became “pretty loose” and McMurray slowly started losing ground. Down to 13th on lap 140, McMurray said that the car had gotten so loose, he feared he might have a tire going down. That turned out to be a false alarm, but it was clear that the team needed to tighten the CitiFinancial Ford Fusion up considerably.
McMurray was 11th when another round of green flag pit stops began on lap 150. He was just about to come down pit road when the caution flew, trapping everyone who had already stopped a lap down and leading to a huge break for McMurray. The CitiFinancial Ford Fusion came down pit road under caution as the leader and received four tires and an air pressure adjustment. McMurray restarted ninth with just 40 laps to go.
The CitiFinancial Ford Fusion was ninth on lap 168 when McMurray again said he was so loose he could have a tire going down. He held on to his ill-handling car and was eighth when the caution flew on lap 189. With just 11 laps remaining, Pardue took a gamble for track position and decided on a two tire stop. McMurray restarted fifth and that is where he would finish; his first top-five of 2008.
“At the start of the day our car was really solid,” said McMurray. “Us and Kyle Busch were probably the two best cars, and we didn't make that big of adjustments, but the car got loose in and tight off, and we had all the green-flag runs so you didn't get a chance to make a lot of adjustments. But Eddie made a good decision at the end to put two tires on, and got us up front. And track position in any of these Truck, Nationwide or Cup races is huge. None of the Roush cars were very good in practice, but we all raced real well. The guys on the CitiFinancial team did a really good job of throwing a set-up in right before the race. And, not really knowing what we had, it was pretty good."
McMurray will return behind the wheel of the No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford Fusion next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.