July 20, 2008 3:11 PM

McMurray Steals Pole; Battles Through Strange and Unusual Evening at Gateway

MADISON, Ill. (July 19, 2008) -- If it wasn’t for the July heat with its sticky humidity, one might have thought it was Halloween evening with a full orange moon in the sky and strange and unusual things happening at the race track below it. 

Pole sitter Jamie McMurray took the green flag for the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 in his No. 17 CitiFinancial Ford Fusion without the usual fanfare of opening ceremonies because strangely the track lost power just as driver introductions ended.  The “brown out” didn’t bother McMurray though as he led the race on two occasions and ran in the top 10 all night.  However, the strange and unusual theme would continue as right in the middle of a strong third-place run with 48 laps to go, the No. 17 CitiFinancial Ford’s motor gave out, giving the team a 27th place finish.

The one-day show started off on a very high note as McMurray, who was the 44th driver to qualify, grabbed the pole from Reed Sorenson by just .003 seconds.  This was a huge boost for McMurray and team since he hails from nearby Joplin, Missouri and was to race in front of a hometown crowd.

As the drivers were making their way to their respective cars, the track lost power causing the race to get under way with no opening ceremonies, no announcer, no caution lights and, for a few teams including the No. 17, no pit stall lights.  As the race began, the drivers were told their spotters would be the ones telling them if a caution came out.  Strange and unusual… Thankfully, as the first several laps were run, most of the lights returned and eventually all went back to normal.

McMurray ran the first 20 laps without issue, except for the fact that his fuel pressure gauge light kept flickering on and off.  Strange and unusual…  Again, keeping with the theme of the evening, a “mysterious” competition yellow came out on lap 20.   Pierre Kuettel (P.K.) , making his crew chief debut with the No. 17 CitiFinancial team, made the call for four new tires and to go up two-tenths of a pound on the right front air pressure.  The 15.65 second pit stop placed McMurray in the eighth position for the restart on lap 26.

During the next run, McMurray fought to get the No. 17 CitiFinancial Ford Fusion back to the front and by lap 54, he was concerned that the car was extremely loose and that he had really abused the right front trying to gain back position.

On lap 62, a caution came out due to an incident between the No. 47 and the No. 52.  The No. 17 crew decided to take the track bar down one-and-a-half rounds and change four tires.  McMurray restarted again in the eighth position.

Just a few laps into the run, he said the car was “horribly tight.”  A few moments later, a caution came out as the lights in turn two went out.  The No. 17 crew thought this might be their chance to fix the car’s issues and discussed bringing the car in for a stop but the caution was a short one with no chance to come to pit road.  The race went green again on Lap 74.

Finally on lap 110, McMurray would be able to bring his No. 17 Ford Fusion to the CitiFinancial crew due to a spin by the No. 27 car.  In just under nine seconds, the team changed right side tires and took one-and-a-half rounds out of the left rear, getting McMurray back in front for the restart on lap 115.

On lap 116, as McMurray was notifying the crew that the car had no grip, a multi-car accident that collected the No. 29, No. 1, No. 40, and No. 66 brought out the red flag.  Clean-up for the wreck took almost 30 minutes and when the race finally restarted on lap 121, McMurray said he was “loose but ok.”

McMurray received a huge boost to his run to the front as, on lap 140, the No. 99 and No. 88 took each other out while fighting for position right behind the CitiFinancial Ford Fusion.  The two cars were to have been strong competitors for the No. 17.

The CitiFinancial crew decided to bring the car in for four tires and fuel plus a “little bit” out of the right rear and one round up in the track bar.  The race restarted on lap 145 with McMurray in the fifth position.

McMurray was determined to bring home a win and immediately began working his way to the front and by lap 148, he was running strongly in third.   All of a sudden on lap 152, McMurray came over the radio to say he had no oil pressure and that the engine was fading, putting an end to the strange and unusual evening.  The strong and promising run was over and McMurray would end up finishing the race in 27th.  McMurray’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate, and fellow Missouri native, Carl Edwards would end up as the race winner. 

“What a crazy night,” said McMurray.  “We definitely had a top-three car before the engine problem ended our night.  This one is hard to take.  This track means a lot to me and I would’ve loved to get a win here at home.  P.K. and the guys did a great job all weekend and I’m just really proud of everyone on this CitiFinancial team.  We have a few more races together before the end of the year so we’ll build on this and come back even stronger next time.” 

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.

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