HOMESTEAD, FLA. (November 16, 2008) – It was a call made by crew chief Larry Carter with 58 laps remaining in the Ford 400 that helped earn Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray his third top-three finish in three races. Carter called his driver down pit road for four tires and fuel on lap 210. After returning to the speedway scored in the 25th position, McMurray one by one picked off positions and took a gamble on fuel. The gamble paid off for the No. 26 Crown Royal team who capped off their 2008 season with a hat trick of third-places finishes.
McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal team entered the season finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the hottest teams of recent weeks. After posting four top-10 finishes in the last five races, the No. 26 team entered Homestead this weekend looking for one more strong finish to end the season. After qualifying seventh on Friday afternoon and two solid practices on Saturday afternoon, the team knew they had a shot at making it happen.
On an unseasonable cool and windy day in Homestead, Fla. the stage was set for afternoon of great racing and a chance to see history be repeated as two-time winner Jimmie Johnson looked for his third consecutive championship. At 4:04pm, the green flag waved as 43 cars took the green flag and rocketed into turn one.
McMurray quickly settled into a rhythm, noting back to Carter that the car was just a little loose off the corners, but still felt pretty good overall. For majority of the first couple runs, McMurray maintained his seventh-place running position.
After a caution for debris on lap 139, as McMurray wheeled his No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion down pit road, Carter made a last minute call for only two tires and fuel. After the Crown Royal team clicked off a 5.1 second pit stop, McMurray returned to the speedway scored in the third position.
McMurray easily held onto his top-five position until a pit stop on lap 169, where Carter had no choice but to take four tires, moved McMurray back to the 12th position. The team didn’t realize this would be a blessing in disguise later in the race.
After running mid pack for a number of runs, McMurray complained to Carter the car just didn’t seem to have the handling it did earlier in the race. The perfect opportunity struck when on lap 209, the caution flag was displayed and with only 57 laps remaining in the race, and knowing the car could go 55 laps on a tank of fuel, Carter made the call for McMurray to pit for four tires and full tank of gas.
The gamble paid off for the No. 26 team as McMurray began picking off one position at a time. With just 15 laps remaining in the event, McMurray had moved up to 10th position and knew a number of cars ahead of him wouldn’t be able to make it on fuel. With just three laps remaining, McMurray made the call to stop saving and start going after additional positions. McMurray quickly climbed from fifth to third and with only two laps remaining was able to hold onto to the third position.
“This was exactly how we wanted to finish off our season,” said McMurray following the race. “That was good. I’m just amazed that Carl was able to get that kind of fuel mileage. That’s incredible to have one of the fastest cars and get the best fuel mileage, a really good combination for him. But, it was a good night for our Crown Royal Ford Fusion. We had fast car, but the way the pit sequence worked out, we got shuffled back, and it wasn’t because we had bad pit stops or because we did anything wrong, it’s just the way it worked out. We were still two laps short and I ran that whole last lap letting off, like, halfway down the straightaway. I’m just amazed that the 99 is able to get that good of mileage and still be one of the fastest cars on the track. It’s incredible that they’re able to do that. So, congratulations to him and to Jimmie on winning the championship. I’m excited to have three third-place finishes in a row. That’s very good for our team. It makes you feel like you’re going to start the next year the same way, and I don’t think that ever in my career I’ve had three top-fives in a row, so I’m really excited. It’s the best I’ve probably ever run”
In 2008, McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal / IRWIN Industrial Tools team finished up the season with four top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. After 36 races, McMurray is scored 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings – his highest season finishing position since joining Roush Fenway Racing in 2006.
Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile speedway)
Daytona Beach, Fla.
February 15, 2008
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.