Salem, Ind. (September 14, 2008) – The No. 99 Aflac team got off to a strong start at Salem Speedway but a mid-race incident cost the team valuable track position and championship points. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. captured his third consecutive pole and ran in the top-three for the first half of the race until a traffic jam on the back straight sent him head on into the wall. The accident cost the youngster 26 laps and forced him into a 17th place finish. A disappointing day for the team who was just 40 points back from point’s leader Scott Speed heading into the race.
The No. 99 Aflac Ford was fast off the truck on Saturday. For the third straight week Stenhouse, Jr. had the luck of the Duck, taking his third pole of the season. Stenhouse, Jr. rounded the track in 17.271 seconds putting him in prime position for the start of Saturday night’s 200-lap showdown. Sean Caisse would start on the outside of Stenhouse, Jr.
The 30-car field took the green flag under the lights at the historic oval and Caisse jumped into the lead followed by Speed and Stenhouse, Jr. The top-10 cars sliced and diced for position as the laps clicked off with rookie Matt Carter hot on the heels of the No. 99. Meanwhile the No. 99 was hot on the heels of Speed. The first of seven cautions flew on lap 23 giving the field a chance to catch their breath. The leaders stayed on the track and Stenhouse, Jr. reported that the Aflac Ford was handling good.
The field resumed under green on lap 30 and once again the war raged on. On lap 35 the No. 99 slid up the track in turns one and two giving Carter the opportunity to pass on the inside. Stenhouse, Jr. wasn’t giving up that easy pulling back into third on the back straight and maintaining his position for the next 30 laps. The third caution flew on lap 64 and Stenhouse, Jr. told crew chief Jeff Campey that he still liked the handling of the car.
The race restarted on lap 70 and now it was the No. 44 of veteran Frank Kimmel on the bumper of No. 99 Aflac Ford. Kimmel searched high and low for the pass but Stenhouse, Jr. fought hard to maintain third. On lap 85 Stenhouse, Jr. went four-wide off turn two in a dramatic pass with Speed, Caisse and a lap car to gain position two. Still following Speed, the top-two cars began to distance themselves from the field until the fourth caution on lap 96.
Campey called for the No. 99 Ford to come down pit road for service. Stenhouse, Jr. came to a stop in his pit box and the Aflac team went to work changing four tires, re-fueling and making a few adjustments to help free the car up just a bit. Stenhouse, Jr. won the race off pit road but loose lugnuts on the left rear forced him back down pit road. At the same time, Speed also returned to pit road but again, Stenhouse, Jr. won the race off pit road.
The green flag waved on lap 105 with Stenhouse, Jr. in 13th and Speed lined up right behind him. Stenhouse, Jr. worked his way through traffic for the next four laps when on lap 109, his luck ran out. The No. 99 was following a slower car off turn two with traffic underneath him when he was hit from behind by the No. 2. This sent the Olive Branch, Miss.-native into the wall, ending his hopes for a win.
The Aflac team worked diligently over the next 26 laps to make repairs sending him back to the track on lap 132 without a hood or right front fender. Stenhouse, Jr. barely missed a big pile up on the back stretch that called for a red flag then it was back to green flag conditions on lap 147.
The wounded Aflac Ford was catching and passing cars despite its appearance but a 26-lap deficit was too much to overcome. ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Kimmel went on to win while Stenhouse, Jr. limped home in 17th. Disappointing, to say the least, for the team who had gained 95 points in the championship hunt over the last three races.
“I was surprised we were able to get back out there,” said a dejected Stenhouse, Jr. following the race. “I didn’t think we were going to be able to fix it but the Aflac team worked hard and we got back out there and were actually running pretty decent considering what the car looked like. I’m proud of my team. They gave me another fast race car today and we were a lot better than we were here in the spring. We got another pole and gained some points there but we can’t afford to have another race like this. That really hurt us as far as the championship goes but we’re not out of it yet.”
Speed continues to lead the point standings with Stenhouse, Jr. 90 back in second. Carter sits just 45 points behind Stenhouse, Jr. in third. The ARCA RE/MAX Series will take a week off before returning to action at New Jersey Motorsports Park. During his off weekend, Stenhouse, Jr. will take the opportunity to make some laps at the famed Eldora Speedway. He will race a World of Outlaw show on Friday, September 19 and follow that up with the “4-Crown” on Saturday night. Stenhouse, Jr. will race a USAC National Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown car on Saturday night with the hopes of repeating his 2007 Midget win and adding two more wins to become the ultimate “4-Crown” champion. For race times and tickets please visit www.eldoraspeedway.com.
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. Aflac is 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. Our insurance products provide protection to more than 40 million people worldwide. Aflac has been included in Fortune magazine's listing of America's Most Admired Companies for seven years and in Fortune magazine's list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for ten consecutive years. Aflac has also been recognized three times by both Fortune magazine's listing of the Top 50 Employers for Minorities and Working Mother magazine's listing of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. 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 www.aflac.com.
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 13 motorsports teams. Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Travis Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.