Rockingham, N.C. (May 4, 2008) – Rockingham Speedway has sat dormant since 2004 when Roush Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag for the final time at the one-mile oval but Sunday, the track came alive as the ARCAR RE/MAX Series marked the return of racing to “The Rock”. Roush Fenway’s newest driver took over the reigns and didn’t disappoint behind the wheel of the No. 99 Ford. With good pit strategy, a little coaching, some tire management and patience, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. captured the second starting spot and raced his way to a third place finish, his second top-five finish in a row.
The first step to racing at “The Rock” is to solidify a solid starting position. Stenhouse did just that on Saturday clocking in at 24.629 seconds locking in the second starting position right behind pole sitter Joey Logano who set a fast time of 24.549 seconds. The two youngster’s led the 50-car field to the green flag under sunny skies Sunday afternoon and in just five laps, the leaders were starting to lap the field. Stenhouse settled into third when the first of 13 cautions flew on lap 11 after several of the leaders spun and wrecked on the back straight. Stenhouse barely escaped without incident to keep forging his way to the front.
The No. 25 of Logano checked out leading the field around the one-mile track at a wicked pace while second on back fought for position, including Stenhouse who ran fourth. The No. 35 hit the turn three wall on lap 47 bringing out caution number three and the first round of pit stops. The leaders pitted and most took tires while the No. 99 opted for only fuel and a track bar adjustment – a decision that would later prove to be valuable.
Stenhouse continued his run in the top-10 focusing on tire management until lap 84 when caution number five waved and the No. 99 Ford came down pit road for its first set of fresh tires. Stenhouse entered pit road in 10th and was the only lead-lap car to pit. The No. 99 team changed four tires, re-fueled and made an air pressure and track bar adjustment in just over 16 seconds returning Stenhouse to the track in 19th for the re-start on lap 90.
Methodically Stenhouse moved his way to the front of the field while the No. 25 continued to dominate. Stenhouse was reporting a tight handling race car especially in traffic but a caution on lap 111 cycled the field on and off pit road placing Stenhouse in the sixth position for the re-start on lap 120. Stenhouse continued to run in the top-10 the remainder of the day following racing greats such as Ken Schrader then passing him for position.
The No. 99 team had a bit of a scare on lap 196 as Stenhouse raced in eighth, he radioed that he might be out of fuel. He quickly flipped some switches and determined it was a faulty distributor and was off and running but had fallen to 10th. By lap 201 Logano had passed Stenhouse and by lap 210, only two cars remained on the lead lap, Logano and Michael Annett. The 10th caution waved on lap 210 giving the entire field reprieve and allowing Stenhouse to pit for four tires, fuel and another track bar and air pressure adjustment. Stenhouse returned to the track in fourth but would not get the “lucky dog” award until lap 274 when he was running fifth. Under caution all the lead lap cars except for Stenhouse and Logano pitted, this gave the No. 99 team one new set of tires for the final laps.
The laps clicked off but the caution that the No. 99 team was looking for did not come until lap 304 when the No. 06 spun. Stenhouse came down pit road for service and in just 15 seconds the No. 99 team changed four tires and sent Stenhouse back on his way to battle for the lead. The field re-started on lap 308 with the No. 99 in fifth and Stenhouse drove as hard as he could looking to catch Logano. He passed fourth and third but ran out of laps and could not get past Schrader for second. Stenhouse crossed the line in third behind Logano and Schrader marking his second top-five finish of the 2008 season and moving him to a tie for third in the overall point standings.
“I really like Rockingham, that was fun today,” said Stenhouse following the race. “We had a good car this weekend. We had a good qualifying run and there at the beginning we were pretty descent. Lumpy and everyone really preached to me about tire management so I was just trying to save my tires and be there at the end. We had a distributor go out about half-way through the race and I think that’s when Joey Logano got around us. Lumpy saved us a fresh set of tires there at the end and the team really got after it on pit road and we were able to get our lap back and race to third. I was really trying hard for second but couldn’t quite get around Kenny there at the end. It was a good points day for us and we seem to have some momentum going so we need to carry that to Kentucky next week.”
When asked about his all-star coaching team, Stenhouse replied, “I have to thank Lumpy (crew chief Jeff Campey), my team, Roush Yates engines and all three of my spotters today, Eric (Peterson), Bobby Hudson and Tony (Stewart). It was great having Bobby and Tony up there helping me. I talked to Matt Kenseth before we tested here and I also talked to Robbie Reiser and Carl Edwards this week which was helpful. It’s awesome having all the engineers I can go talk to along with the crew chiefs and my teammates. I think that helps quite a bit.”
Stenhouse is now tied for third in the overall point standings, 95 points out of first place. The ARCA RE/MAX Series returns to racing next Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. The race is not televised but fans can keep up with the race at www.arcaracing.com on their live timing and scoring system.
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.