2007 Ride: No. 26 Roush Racing Ford
2007 Primary Sponsor: Crown Royal/IRWIN Industrial Tools
2007 Owner: Geoff Smith/Jack Roush
2007 Crew Chief: Larry Carter
Stats: 36 races, one win, three top fives, nine top 10s, one pole, 17th in points
Best Finish: Win (Pepsi 400 – Daytona)
High Point: Without a doubt, edging out Kyle Busch by 0.005 seconds in the Pepsi 400 was the highlight of the 2007 season for McMurray. After being sent to the back of the field for passing under the yellow line, he made his way back through the pack and – with a well-placed bump or two from teammate Carl Edwards – was able to push ahead of Busch for his second career victory, snapping a 166-race winless drought. McMurray also found success early in the season, scoring three straight top-10 finishes in late March and early April to collect a total of five top 10s in the first nine races of the year.
Low Point: After his win at Daytona, McMurray had an outside chance at making the Chase – one which he quickly blew by wrecking the next week at Chicagoland. While the win had the chance to be a springboard for the No. 26 team to carry their early success throughout the end of the year, it did just the opposite; the team posted finishes of 30th or worse in the next five races. In all, they struggled to earn just two top 10s in the second half of the season.
Summary: After a disappointing first season at Roush where he was paired with three different crew chiefs, McMurray personally sought out Larry Carter to lead his team in 2007. They spent the full season together, finally establishing consistency within the No. 26; however, that consistency wasn’t backed up on the track. Not all of their misfortunes can be blamed on problems with the team; all five of the season’s DNFs came from crashes, often in cases of McMurray simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as the year wound down, McMurray reverted back to the just plain mediocre performances which have plagued his tenure with Roush Fenway Racing. While progress was made, it’s obvious that the team still has a lot of work ahead of them if they want to be considered contenders on a weekly basis.
2008 Outlook: No major personnel changes are on the horizon for the No. 26 heading into 2008. Like all teams, McMurray will have to deal with the Car of Tomorrow on a full-time basis. When the car first debuted at Bristol, he recorded two straight top 10s; but after that, he scored just one in the car’s final 14 starts. That should be a major topic of discussion for the team and the entire Roush Fenway organization during the offseason. Regardless, the first half of 2007 gave us a glimmer of what made McMurray such a hot commodity in the first place; and with Carter in place for another year, he should be able to continue that improvement into the upcoming season.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: D
2007 Grade: C
Editor’s Note: The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close – which means it’s time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley.