Las Vegas: Jamie McMurray race report

McMurray Dealt 15th-Place Finish at Vegas LAS VEGAS, Nevada (March 14, 2005) -- The No. 42 Texaco/Havoline team's luck could've been found riding on two sets of Goodyear Eagles on Sunday when an average weekend culminated in a myriad of ...

McMurray Dealt 15th-Place Finish at Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (March 14, 2005) -- The No. 42 Texaco/Havoline team's luck could've been found riding on two sets of Goodyear Eagles on Sunday when an average weekend culminated in a myriad of highs and lows for McMurray and his crew. But as the desert dust settled on the team's efforts on lap 267, McMurray had managed to salvage a 15th-place finish powering back from as deep as 29th in the field with less than 45 laps to the checkered flag.

"I started out the race with a lot of grip in the tires but quickly became unstable driving down in the corners and had a hard time holding my car down on the bottom of the track where everyone wanted to be," McMurray said. "I was skating around on my tires a little over 50 laps in and had to mash the pedal down to get the brakes to work. I was scared I was going to loose the brake pedal by the time the day was over, so my crew looked at the brake calibers but didn't find anything wrong. We went back and forth from being loose to tight, but we definitely fought finding grip for most of the race. A couple of times, I was fighting my car so much that I thought I had a flat tire or we had a loose lug nut from the vibration. But my Texaco/Havoline team did a great job with all of their adjustments and gave me some fast pit stops and track position that helped me get back to the front at the end."

Rolling off the grid in row 11 just outside of the No. 2, McMurray showed no sign of struggles from the weekend's practice sessions as he quickly knocked off eight competitors in a mere ten laps of green flag competition. As the first of ten record cautions was displayed on lap 12, the No. 42 made its first of nine visits to pit road for air pressure adjustments, four tires and fuel.

Restarting in 13th, McMurray averaged a consistent three-tenths off the lead pace until the second and third yellow flags brought the field to pit road on laps 60 and 65. With air pressure, track bar and wedge adjustments under his belt along with four tires and fuel, McMurray took the green just outside the top-10. But less than a handful of circuits later, he took an unexpected freefall back through the field from an unknown vibration until he was forced to pit under green on lap 79 for four fresh tires.

"I called into Donnie [Wingo] and told him I felt good on the restart but all of a sudden, the grip was gone and it felt like I had a right rear go flat," McMurray said. "I tried to ride it out and wait for a caution but came in because we were loosing too much track position. When they told me everything looked good, I came back on the radio and said, 'there's no way.' I don't know what happened there, but, whew, I was really, really loose."

One lap down to the race leader, the No. 42 crew gave their Charger another set of tires, wedge and air pressure adjustments and fuel on lap 88 after the No. 9 got loose and backed into the turn 4 wall. Making his way back through the field again battling a loose ride, McMurray and team found themselves back on the lead lap and in the hunt when the fifth caution of the race fell over the field. Thanks to a trio of stops for proper air, wedge and track bar adjustments, four fresh tires and fuel on laps 103 and 126 and 195, McMurray was able to carve his way just outside the top-10 jockeying for the preferred lower groove and at times, following teammate Casey Mears' lead until the team's luck seemingly ran out just after the restart on lap 210.

Fighting an extremely loose ride, the No. 42 plummeted to 28th until a caution on lap 223 saved the team from disaster. With a final stop for air and track bar adjustments and four tires, McMurray exited his pit stall and readied for the restart in 22nd.

"I just couldn't drive the car," McMurray said. "Donnie thought it might have been dirt on the tires after the restart. I didn't know what we had done to our car, but those tires made it ridiculously loose. I was practically sideways and the vibration came back and was shaking my eyes out even under the caution. It was a totally different race car with that set of tires."

As the end of the day mirrored its beginning, McMurray worked his way back mid-pack posting nearly identical speeds to eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson gaining three positions in the 2005 point standings.

McMurray and the No. 42 head to the fastest track on the circuit, Atlanta Motor Speedway, on March 20 in 14th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point's race. The third of 36 events on the 2005 docket will be broadcast live from Hampton, Georgia, on FOX and PRN affiliates nationwide at 12:30 p.m. EST.

-cgr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray