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April 27, 2009 8:35 AM

Last Lap Crash Crushes No. 99 Claritin Team's Chance for Victory at Talladega

Devastating Accident Sends Edwards’ No. 99 into the Fence and Results in 24-Place Finish

TALLADEGA, ALA. (April 26, 2009) – Talladega Superspeedway is famous for high speeds, close competition and the “Big One” and today’s Aaron’s 499 at the infamous 2.66-mile Alabama track didn’t disappoint.  With nine cautions, 57 lead changes and three “Big Ones”, Sunday’s 188-lap event was anything but dull, especially for Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Claritin Ford Fusion. After posting fast times during Friday’s practice sessions and qualifying a respectable 16th, Edwards and the No. 99 team knew that they had a fast Ford Fusion, but also knowing the history of Talladega races decided to play it safe, lay back and be there at the end.  Soon after the drop of the green flag Edwards shuffled to the back of the field to implement this conservative strategy. He ran in and around 28th position most of the day. With just 20 laps remaining in the race, he began his charge to the front and it was obvious that Edwards’ Claritin Ford Fusion was a strong contender as he quickly made his way into the top 10. On the final restart with just four laps remaining in the race, Edwards was running ninth. Within a lap he had taken over the lead. Edwards was heading for Victory Lane when a nudge from rookie Brad Keselowski sent him careening into the frontstretch retaining fence to end the wild NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Edwards ended up finishing 24th.

Edwards started the race from the 16th position and soon fell back mid-pack – and team 99 would soon question their decision to lay back. Lap six saw the first caution of the day and collected several top competitors. Though Edwards avoided the brunt, of the melee, his Ford did incur some right rear damage and he was forced to pit four times within seven laps for repairs. When green flag resumed on lap 13, Edwards was scored in 19th position.
 
After witnessing the wreckage of the first crash, ‘playing it safe’ was the name of the Edwards’ game for the majority of the race. And though the approach was less than thrilling for spectators, the plan played in Edwards’ favor as his Ford remained unscathed. With 20 laps to go, Edwards began his charge to the front. He had made it up to ninth place by lap 179 when another multi-car crash occurred.

Edwards escaped the accident with no damage and restarted the race for a final time on lap 184 in ninth place. When the white flag waved, Edwards was the race leader en route to victory lane, however, that would all change just a few feet from the start-finish line. While blocking Edwards, rookie, Keselowski came down on the Edwards’ No. 99 and Edwards’ Ford went flying through air, into the fence and ultimately landing within feet of the finish line.

Keselowski went on down the track to win his first-ever Sprint Cup race with smoke and parts from Edwards' Ford filling the air.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished second.  Ryan Newman limped across in third place after receiving damage from the last lap wreck. Marcos Ambrose and Scott Speed followed to complete the top five.

Edwards showed he was okay (and thrilled the crowd) after his spectacular wreck by climbing out of his smoldering, torn-up Ford and jogging down the track to finish the race on foot. The crowd roared.

“Brad was pushing, he’s doing everything he can,” Edwards said shortly after being checked and released from the infield car center. “I saw him go high.  I went high.  He goes low right here and I didn’t realize he got that far, so I went low to block a little bit and he was already there, so I turned around backwards.  At this point I’m thinking, ‘Boy, I wish I was  made out of liquid gel material,’ and then I’m very fortunate we hit the wall in a way it didn’t crush my roll cage down on my neck because that would have been a lot worse.  Brad did a great job.  Congrats to him on the win. I’m just glad nobody got hurt today.  I’m glad the car didn’t go up in the grandstands and hurt somebody.  Most of all, I’ve just got to thank Claritin and all my guys.  That was the smartest race I could run and I guess we ended up 23rd or something, but Brad did his job.  We were just racing hard and we’re lucky nobody got hurt.”

Edwards and the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion team race next at Richmond International Raceway. The No. 99 Aflac team will take to the track on Saturday, May 2 for the Crown Royal Presents, the Russ Friedman 400. FOX television and MRN radio affiliates will broadcast the race live beginning at 7:00 p.m. (EST).

Edwards’ Talladega Result:
Start: 16th
Finish: 24th  
Laps: 187/188
Led: Two
Status: Accident
High: First
Low: 34th    
Fastest Laps: Seven
Laps in top 15: 24
Points: 96*5

Edwards’ 2009 Cumulative Record:
Races: 9 of 36
Points: 1119
Behind Leader: -180
Rank: Seventh
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Top 5s: One
Top 10s: Four
Top 15s: Five

About Roush Fenway Racing

Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating nine motorsports teams.  Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; three in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Colin Braun; and one in the Camping World Truck Series with Braun. 

About Aflac

For more than 50 years, Aflac products have given policyholders the opportunity to direct cash where it is needed most when a life-interrupting medical event causes financial challenges. As the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States and the number one insurance company in terms of individual insurance policies in force in Japan, Aflac insurance products provide protection to more than 40 million people worldwide. Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for three consecutive years and was also named by the Reputation Institute as the Most Respected Company in the Global Insurance Industry in 2008. In 2009 Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the eleventh consecutive year. Fortune magazine also ranked Aflac No. 1 on its global list of the Most Admired Companies in the Life and Health Insurance category. Aflac appears on Hispanic Enterprise magazine's list of the 50 Best Companies for Supplier Diversity and on Black Enterprise magazine's list of the 40 Best Companies for Diversity. Aflac was also named by Forbes magazine as America's Best-Managed Company in the Insurance category. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com.

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