Mcmurray Moves Ahead

In 2007, Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray completed his second season in the No. 26 Crown Royal / IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford Fusion. Teamed up with crew chief Larry Carter, the duo compiled three top fives and nine top-10 finishes. The highlight of the 2007 season came at Daytona International Speedway in July, when McMurray edged out Kyle Busch by .005 seconds to score his second NEXTEL Cup victory. McMurray also added one NEXTEL Cup pole award to his resume in 2007.

“Overall, I’d have to say it was a really good season for Larry (Carter) and the entire No. 26 team,” said McMurray. “Our team got off to a great start this season. We were in the top five with just a few laps to go at Daytona, and then we carried the same momentum into Fontana, Vegas and Atlanta.”

On January 1st, Carter joined Roush Fenway Racing as the crew chief for the No. 26 team. With Carter came almost an entire new team. The No. 26 team started the season off with Derek Stamets, team engineer, car chief Todd Ziegler and a host of others determined to put the No. 26 Ford Fusion back in Victory Lane.

“Larry not only brought hard working people to the team, but also guys that believed in him, the program, and me as a driver,” said McMurray. “He brought guys that wanted to be there and were determined to work hard all season long. It was a brand new team from 2006, and immediately you could see a difference in all the guys. Larry did a great job of assembling a great group of guys for us to start the season off with.”

In the season opening Daytona 500, McMurray showed he had a strong car the entire race. With just five laps remaining, McMurray drafted his way into the fifth position. However, with three laps to go, McMurray was clipped from behind, which sent his No. 26 Ford Fusion directly into the wall. The team was left with a 31st-place finish.

The following weekend at California Speedway, McMurray suffered the same bad luck and was taken out of the race on lap seven.

However, the next five races – Las Vegas, Atlanta, Bristol, Martinsville and Texas were exactly what McMurray had hoped for when he asked Carter to join the No. 26 team.

McMurray posted his first top-10 finish of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and followed up the effort with a top-15 run in the No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford Fusion at Atlanta Motor Speedway the next weekend.

In the first “Car of Tomorrow” race of 2007 at Bristol Motor Speedway, McMurray qualified fifth, and finished the race with his second top-10 finish of the season.

The No. 26 team felt like they were on a roll and momentum was on their side the following weekend at Martinsville Speedway when McMurray started the race on the outside pole and finished again in the top 10.

At Texas Motor Speedway the ensuing weekend, McMurray finished the race with his first top-five finish of the season. Following the Texas race, McMurray was scored 10th in the NEXTEL Cup point standings.

Two weeks later at Talladega Superspeedway, McMurray captured his second top-five finish of the season in his No. 26 Sharp Aquos / 3M Vikuiti Ford Fusion.

After a disappointing run at Richmond International Raceway in May, McMurray eyed his return to Darlington Raceway – McMurray’s “favorite” track on the NASCAR circuit. McMurray ran in the top 10 the entire race, but took on a bad set of tires during the last pit stop which left him with a 16th-place finish at the “Lady in Black.”

Following the race at Darlington, the series returned to Charlotte for two “hometown” races. In the Nextel Open, McMurray finished 10th and in the season’s longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600, McMurray crossed the start/finish line in the 19th position.

The next three races were a roller coaster ride for McMurray and the No. 26 team. McMurray’s best finish during the three-race run came at Michigan International Speedway, where McMurray finished eighth.

The series headed to Sonoma, Calif., the following weekend for the first “COT” race at a road course. McMurray, who has quickly become one of the best road course racers on the circuit, captured the pole on Friday afternoon and led the parade of 43 cars to the green flag on Sunday. McMurray, who led most of the race that afternoon, certainly had the car to beat. With only two laps remaining, the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion ran out of fuel. McMurray coasted around the 1.99-mile speedway to a disappointing 37th-place finish.

“I couldn’t believe how close we came to winning that race in Sonoma. Just two more laps of fuel and we would have won that race. It was disappointing to finish where we did, when I know that we had a car capable of winning that race. Both Larry and I told the team to keep their heads up and to keep focusing on the remainder of the season,” said McMurray.

Two weeks later, McMurray and team celebrated what would be the end of a 166-race winless streak McMurray carried since 2003 when he last won at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. In arguably one of the best finishes of the year, McMurray’s No. 26 IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford Fusion crossed the finish line just .005 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch. The finish was recorded as a tie for the second-closet finish in NASCAR history.

McMurray’s win in Daytona did not carry over into the coming weeks, which took the series through Chicago, Indy, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Michigan. During the summer stretch of races McMurray’s best finish came at Indy, where he finished 33rd.

“We hit a run there in the middle of the season where it did not seem like we could finish a race. Either we would get caught up in a wreck, or the handling of our car wasn’t exactly right. It was tough for all the guys. I know after a win, you think that everything is going to continue going right, but for us, luck just wasn’t on our side.”

As the series returned to Michigan in the middle of August, McMurray was scored 17th in the NEXTEL Cup point standings.

The following weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, McMurray had another great qualifying effort. For the infamous Saturday night race at Bristol, McMurray started from the third position. After a night of battling the handling of his Ford Fusion, the No. 26 team left with a 26th-place finish.

It seemed over the next four weeks, the luck was changing for the No. 26 Crown Royal team. After a 16th-place run at California Speedway, McMurray went on to finish 11th two weeks later at New Hampshire and eighth the following weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Although the team had a good run going, the bad luck seemed to find a way back into the No. 26 program. The next five races did not go the way McMurray had planned. At Kansas Speedway, McMurray’s hometown track, the rain-shorten race left the No. 26 team with a 24th-place finish. At Talladega the next weekend, McMurray was taken out in the “Big One,” along with 11 other race cars. At Charlotte and Martinsville, McMurray had really fast race cars – qualifying sixth and ninth, respectively, but battled handling issues and brake issues that left the team with 24th and 32nd-place finishes.

At Texas the following weekend, the No. 26 team sported another “special” Crown Royal paint scheme. McMurray qualified 24th and went on to finish ninth in his No. 26 Crown Royal Special Reserve Ford Fusion. That weekend, the Jamie McMurray Foundation also donated $5,000 to a local autistic foundation.

In the home stretch, McMurray finished 23rd at Phoenix and 14th at the season-ending Homestead race. The 14th-place run at Homestead was McMurray’s 12th top-15 finish of the season.

McMurray finished the 2007 season with one win, three top fives, nine top-10 finishes and one pole award.

“I thought overall it was a really good season. We certainly did not have the finishes that we had hoped for, but overall I thought we came a long way. Larry really changed this team and has done a great job of keeping the guys motivated and giving me the best cars every week. That was it, we had really fast race cars in the final 15 races. Every week we unloaded a really good car. That’s what made the difference and made things run a lot smoother,” said McMurray.

Next season NASCAR will transition fully into the “Car of Tomorrow.” The “COT” will run at all 38 Sprint Cup races next season.

“I think it’s going to be a lot better with the Car of Tomorrow once we are running it every weekend. This season it was tough going back and forth between the two different cars; not only for me, but all the guys back at the shop that had to build and hang the bodies on the car.”

Away from the track, McMurray continued to raise funds for the Jamie McMurray Foundation. In April, the foundation raised more than $20,000 through an online auction during National Autism Awareness month. Along with the auction, McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion sported a “puzzle-piece” look in the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway in May. McMurray donned a special firesuit, helmet and gloves. All of the items were auctioned off following the race. McMurray also participated in a number of golf tournaments in support of autism awareness.

“We really did a lot of work with the foundation this season,” said McMurray. “We were able to raise quite a bit of money for autism awareness with the online auction in April, the golf tournament with SPEED Channel and the items we auctioned off from the Dover race. Hopefully, we can do more of those types of projects again in 2008.”

Along with the foundation work, McMurray appeared on the soap opera “Passions.” McMurray played himself during the cameo appearance.

Next MRN Broadcast


Upcoming Cup Broadcasts

© 2017 MRN. All Rights Reserved

FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

ISC Track Sites