DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 5, 2008) – Jamie McMurray and the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools team entered Daytona International Speedway this weekend as the defending race winner. After starting from the 40th position, McMurray quickly charged into the top-20, however a late race incident kept the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools team from repeating their visit to victory lane. A disappointing accident on lap 132 left the No. 26 team with a 32nd-place finish in tonight’s Coke Zero 400.
The return to Daytona International Speedway has been a race circled on the calendar in the No. 26 shop at Roush Fenway Racing. After winning last year’s race, the No. 26 team entered this weekend’s race with an extra bit of confidence, and even sported the same special paint scheme – the IRWIN Marathon with WeldTec saw blades and iconic yellow flame job on their Ford Fusion.
Before 125,000 fans packed into Daytona International Speedway, 43 cars took the green flag for the start of the Coke Zero 400. McMurray, who started from the 40th position, quickly cut his No. 26 IRWIN Marathon with WeldTec Ford Fusion through the field. Just five laps into the event, McMurray had already picked up seven positions.
On lap 15, crew chief Larry Carter asked him how the balance was in his car. McMurray radioed back that the track felt very slick, and he was extremely loose. Carter radioed back they would make an air pressure adjustment during the first pit stop, which should assist with the handling.
The first caution of the evening came on lap 19, when the No. 84 car cut down a tire in turn four. During the caution, McMurray brought his No. 26 Ford Fusion down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools team returned McMurray to the race in the 26th position.
On the next restart, the field lined up two by two and rocketed off into turn one. McMurray, who rode on the outside radioed into Carter noting the car was too tight this run. Carter noted the change in the car and discussed various options for changing it on the next pit stop. Although the handling of the car wasn’t the best for McMurray, the team was still able to maintain their position in the top 25.
On lap 109, the caution flag was displayed when the No. 19 machine cut a tire and made hard contact with the outside wall. The caution period saw all the leaders come down pit road for tires and fuel. The No. 26 team made a routine stop on lap 111 for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment in the right-rear tire. Following the pit stop, Carter called McMurray down pit road again to top off fuel – a possible fuel strategy came into play, as Carter and team engineer Derek Stamets felt they had enough fuel to make it to the end of the race.
The late-race strategy was foiled on lap 132, as the field entered turn one. McMurray, who positioned himself in the middle line, moved up one lane and was clipped in the right rear quarter panel by another car. The contact sent McMurray spinning down the backstretch and into the grass located between turns one and two. After slowing down the car, McMurray returned to the track and drove his car down pit road to the awaiting No. 26 team. The crew quickly changed four tires, topped off the fuel and sent McMurray back onto the race track.
After just one lap on the track, McMurray returned to pit road after noting the steering was completely out of line. The No. 26 team quickly directed McMurray behind pit wall, where after only losing six laps the team returned McMurray to the track in the 36th position.
As the race went on, McMurray continued to pick up one position at a time. By the time the checkered flag flew for race winner Kyle Busch, the No. 26 IRWIN Marathon with WeldTec Ford Fusion crossed the line in the 32nd position.
“That certainly was not exactly how we planned to run the race tonight,” said McMurray in the garage. “Going into tonight’s race, I thought we were going to have a pretty good chance at defending our title. We didn’t qualify very well, but I felt we had a car that was going to be pretty good when the race started. We struggled with the handling a little bit tonight, but I thought we’d be there at the end. It seemed like tonight, all you had to do was finish the race and you were going to place pretty well. It’s unfortunate for this No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools team. They worked hard all night and once again we just couldn’t seem to finish out the race.”
Tonight’s finish moved the No. 26 team up one position to 23rd in the Sprint Cup point standings. Next weekend, the team will travel to Chicagoland Speedway for the LifeLock.com 400. The race will be held under the lights for the first time at the 1.5-mile speedway. The action begins at 8:00pm (Eastern) and will be broadcasted on both TNT and MRN.
Chicagoland Speedway (1.5-mile speedway)
Saturday, July 12, 2008