Kansas City, Kan. (April 25, 2008) – It was a dash to the finish in the closing laps of the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Kansas Speedway late Friday afternoon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was right in the middle of it. A disappointing qualifying run (17th) didn’t detour the 20-year-old from Olive Branch, Miss. Instead he put a drum on the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and marched right to the front of the field battling Scott Speed for the lead in the final three laps. Speed crossed the line first with Stenhouse a close second, his best career stock car finish.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series field had one practice session Friday morning to hit their set-ups and the No. 99 team seemed to be right on the money. Under overcast skies and cold temperatures, Stenhouse clocked consistent lap times in the top-five but his qualifying run didn’t prove to be as steady. Clocking in at 31.926 seconds, Stenhouse put the No. 99 Ford in the 17th starting position for Friday’s race while Ken Butler III took the pole with a 30.799 second run. Stenhouse remained positive stating, “We freed it up too much for qualifying so I only qualified 17th which was disappointing but I knew we would be better in the race.”
The green flag waved over the 1.5-mile tri-oval and Stenhouse quickly settled into 14th while reporting the No. 99 Ford was free in the corners but getting better as the run went on. However, during the long run the field had spread out. Stenhouse was dangerously close to going one lap down when on lap 41 the first of four cautions flew. Crew Chief Jeff Campey choreographed a pit stop that would be one for the history books. Stenhouse entered pit road in the 14th position for four tires, fuel and an air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustment. By all accounts it should have been a lengthy stop but the Roush Fenway boys took the bull by the horns sending Stenhouse back to the track in eighth, up six positions.
Stenhouse was now free to continue his march to the front which is just what he did, racing in the top-10 the remainder of the day. On lap 61 during the second re-start, the No. 99 team held their breath as the No. 00 missed a shift and the front of the field bunched up. The field sorted itself out and Stenhouse moved into the ninth position. By lap 80 the No. 99 Ford was as fast as the leaders and the car seemed to be coming in as the run went on. While Stenhouse moved forward the cars in front of him moved backwards and one-by-one he passed them.
Lap 89 saw caution number three of the day when Stenhouse got a good run off turn four running into the back of Justin Lofton sending him spinning down the front straight. Stenhouse emerged unscathed and immediate came over the radio to apologize. The No. 99 Ford now sat seventh and several of the leaders opted for pit road with less than 10 laps remaining. This placed the rookie third for the re-start on lap 94 but a subsequent caution cost Stenhouse precious green flag laps, three to be exact.
The green flag waved once again on lap 97 and as the No. 30 spun his tires on the re-start, Stenhouse took advantage moving into second, hunting the leader Speed. Both cars were strong and ultimately Stenhouse would run out of laps coming home second to Speed. Overall a solid day for the rookie who’s goal this week was to bring home the car in one piece with no wrinkles.
“That was a pretty good day for the No. 99 team,” said Stenhouse during the post-race press conference. “At the beginning we were going the wrong way but as the run went on we got better and better and they started coming back to us. I have to thank the Roush Yates engine shop; they gave me the horsepower down the straights, and the body shop for giving me a fast car. We had an old No. 17 Cup car and it was fast.”
Asked about his pit crew, the accident and the finish he said, "The pit crew did an awesome job today, they gained several spots on that first caution which helped me a lot. I have to apologize to the No. 93, I got a better run than I thought I did off four and accidentally got into him there late in the race. I was a little surprised under that caution that a few of leaders pitted but it helped us out. I was disappointed that the last caution came out. It took me a few laps to get going and there at the end I think we could have caught the leader, I just ran out of laps. All in all it was a good day and I have to thank Lumpy (crew chief Jeff Campey) and my entire No. 99 Roush Fenway team, they did a great job."
Stenhouse moves to ninth in the point standings, up two positions from last week. The No. 99 team heads to Rockingham next week to race Sunday, May 4 at the track known solely as “The Rock”.
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.