McMurray's Stellar Mexico City Run Turns Sour MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 7, 2005) -- Encircled by more than a dozen local Texaco/Havoline executives and employees in the terrace suite before the start of the inaugural Busch Series' event on ...
McMurray's Stellar Mexico City Run Turns Sour
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 7, 2005) -- Encircled by more than a dozen local Texaco/Havoline executives and employees in the terrace suite before the start of the inaugural Busch Series' event on foreign soil, Jamie McMurray stood soaking up the festive atmosphere and enjoyed an encouraging cheer from his supporters in their native tongue. As they repeatedly chanted his name and sent him on his way, one could only hope that their excitement and support would carry over into the unpredictable 80-lap event.
But it was gloomy, overcast skies that instead foretold the Texaco/Havoline team's fate. Although McMurray climbed as high as runner-up to local superstar Adrian Fernandez, a conclusive call for illegal entry on pit road stole the team's chances of victory and sent the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge to the back of the pack. As the laps ticked down, McMurray finished out his roller coaster weekend a disappointing 33rd after contact with the No. 38 sent the pair into a synchronized spin with six laps to go.
"On any road course, it's huge to have to give up your track position," McMurray said. "I was 100 percent sure that the green light was on when I hit pit road, so we pitted. I wouldn't have pitted if it had been red. That would've just been stupid. And then NASCAR said that they knew the green light was on. So I don't know why we had to go to the back? Donnie [Wingo] said he had seen the tape, but they just didn't see his side. It's an important part of the sport to let you know when pit road is open or closed, so I feel we had a pretty good run taken away from us. Other than that, it was a good day for this team's first Busch Series event."
With thousands of fans packing the grandstands, pre-race activities boasted more fanfare than Daytona as a massive flag was unfurled to the tune of the Mexican anthem and a flood of cheers along the tiered front stretch. As 43 drivers rolled off pit road, McMurray took the green in 14th and quickly grabbed two positions before heading off-road into turn 1 after only two laps of competition.
After a quick recovery, driver of the No. 42 worked his way to ninth no less than 10 laps later following local superstar, Michael Jourdaine's, line. As the No. 49 spun through the grass off turn 2 bringing out the second yellow, McMurray restarted the race in second behind pole sitter Jorge Goeters.
Although car and driver posted the fastest time on lap 22, McMurray and his team stuck to their strategy and pitted on lap 25 for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments all around.
"The air pressure took too long to come up in the beginning of the race, and forward bite was an issue," McMurray said. "My Charger was way too tight during the initial laps but better as time went on. I was super fast through the shacane, but my car wasn't as good through the slow stuff. Overall, I was better than a lot of other guys and brought it in to the pits a lot freer than it had been. Fortunately, I learned a lot from following Jorge's line and driving in low on the track."
Restarting in 29th, the No. 42 quickly picked off competitors one-by-one and hovered just outside the top-10 when he followed Fernanadez onto pit road for four tires and fuel on lap 46. Cycling to eighth after the stop, McMurray and crew were seeing green as they were promptly instructed to fall back to the tail end of the longest line due to an illegal stop.
A myriad of cautions over the next nine laps slowed McMurray's march to the front, and pole sitter Goeters' blown engine with less than 15 laps to go slowed the field for a seventh time while track workers attempted to clear massive amounts of oil from the track.
With 11 laps to go, McMurray fell in 16th place behind the No. 36 and quickly maneuvered his way to 11th before making contact with the No. 38 charging for the 10th position. After a quick visit pit side to access the damage, McMurray rejoined the field to finish out the day in 33rd.
"Some of the guys don't like coming to road course tracks, but I love it," McMurray said. "I think it's a lot of fun. I always compare it to what it would feel like to steal a car. Normally, we just go one direction, and here you use a lot of brakes, you get to shift and turn in both directions. It's a lot more technical than what we normally get to do which makes it a lot of fun."
"There are a couple of things they need to do with the race track if we come back," he said. "The track needs more run offs. There's not a lot of forgiveness in the track, so it needs more run off areas. At most road courses, when you run off, you hit a sandpit that stops the car, you pull it out and you go on. I wrecked on Friday and just destroyed my car. And the shacane needs a little work so that drivers can slow down more. But overall, they're pretty small things that can be fixed."
Although the Texaco/Havoline team didn't relish a fabled ending, McMurray will be a strong proponent of returning south of the border.
"I would love to see the Cup Series come here," he said. "When I go back to the states, I'll make sure to tell my stories and let everyone know how great it was. On Friday, there weren't a lot of fans here, but on Saturday and Sunday, I was amazed by the turn out and that they recognize many of the American drivers and even wear your sponsor's clothing. I walked in there on Friday, and no one knew me. I walked into the track this weekend, and it was a totally different atmosphere. The people were so friendly. It was a different experience, but it was a lot of fun."
The No. 42 Texaco/Havoline team is hoping to regain their luck as they return to NEXTEL Cup Series action and 1.5-mile superspeedway in Las Vegas on March 13 with the running of the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. The event will be broadcast on FOX at 2 p.m. EST and heard on PRN nationwide beginning at 2:15 p.m. EST.