Millville, N.J. (September 28, 2008) – The first and only road course race of the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series season at New Jersey Motorsports Park presented many challenges to the No. 99 Aflac team. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. battled back from an accident in a USAC Midget earlier in the week to start the race while teammate Colin Braun jumped in to help finish it. The team qualified ninth, made a driver change and marched from the back to the front of the field in a rain-shortened race to finish second. A successful, yet disappointing day for the team who is deep in the championship hunt.
While leading last Saturday night’s Midget feature at the “4-Crown” event at Eldora Speedway, Stenhouse, Jr. took a wild ride down the backstretch that left him bruised and sore heading into the New Jersey event. With the championship on the line, Stenhouse, Jr. stepped up to the plate qualifying the No. 99 Aflac Ford in the ninth position in his first road course race. Road course Ace Andy Lally took the pole followed by a slue of other road course experts.
With Stenhouse, Jr.’s injuries, the team made the decision to make a driver switch at the first caution in order for Stenhouse, Jr. to recover 100% in time for next week’s Talladega event. Under dreary skies, the 39-car field took the green with Stenhouse, Jr. behind the wheel. Meanwhile teammate Braun was poised on the wall in his race attire, ready to relieve Stenhouse, Jr. upon the first caution. Caution number one flew on lap two and on lap four Stenhouse, Jr. made his way down pit road for the first time.
The Aflac team conducted a perfectly choreographed pit stop sliding Stenhouse, Jr. out of the car and Braun in. In just 38 seconds, the team tightened Braun in his belts, replaced and straightened the steering wheel, and lowered the visor on the Aflac Duck that rides as co-pilot in the Ford. Braun was off and away and circled back around in the 28th position before taking the green flag on lap 10. Lally led the field around the circuit while Braun knocked off the competition one at a time passing seven cars in his first green flag lap.
By lap 11 Braun entered the top 20 and was reporting that the Aflac Ford was handling good. The second full-course caution flew on lap 26 with Braun in the eighth position. The leaders entered pit road for their only pit stop of the day and upon entering, point leader Scott Speed passed the pace car on pit road under caution which is a one lap penalty per ARCA rules. Once again the Aflac team was flawless returning Braun to the track in under 16 seconds and gaining him two positions.
As the field circled under caution, ARCA called for the No. 2 car to serve a lesser penalty of starting at the tail-end of the longest line for running over pit equipment. Crew chief Jeff Campey, along with other teams up and down pit road, called for ARCA to enforce the one lap penalty for passing the pace car but the green flag waved on lap 30 and the stiffer penalty was not assessed.
The Aflac team moved on and Braun continued his ascent to the front of the field entering the top three by lap 31. The Ford was a bit free to start but leader Justin Allgaier was coming back to Braun. On lap 37 Braun was up to the door of the No. 16 car making a pass for the lead when the yellow flag waved for debris on the track. Braun resumed the second-place position but the impending rain was now playing into the mix.
The skies sprinkled rain on the road course but the field remained on the track for over 10 laps before ARCA called the race at lap 48, 19 laps shy of the end. Allgaier took home the win followed by the team of Stenhouse, Jr. and Braun and Taylor Malsam in third. As the top three pulled into victory lane, the clouds broke and the track dried leaving the Aflac team with even more disappointment on the day. It was a championship effort for the championship contending team who gained 25 points on Speed who finished eighth.
“It’s too bad we had to finish the race this way,” said a dejected Braun following the race. “We ran over 10 caution laps in the rain then they call it as the rain stopped. I don’t understand why they did that. The Aflac Ford was good today and the guys did a great job on pit road with the driver change and the pit stop. I think we could have passed the No. 16 for the win there. Ricky did a good job starting out there and we were able to make our way back to the front. I just wish we could have had a better result.”
Rookie of the Year contender Stenhouse, Jr. was equally disappointed in the post-race press conference saying, “First I have to thank Colin for coming here to help us this weekend.” He continued, “I just wasn’t 100 percent so the team made the decision to take me out at the first caution and I understand that. The Aflac Ford was really good out there and I know we could have won if the race had gone to the end. The guys did a great job on pit road and made a driver change in I think 38 seconds or something which is just awesome. I wish we could have had a little better result but at least we gained a little in the points. There are still two races left and anything can happen.”
When asked about the No. 2 team’s penalty, Stenhouse, Jr. had this to say, “I think he was penalized for running over pit equipment or something and sent to the tail end of the longest line. The problem was, he passed the pace car on pit road which is a one lap penalty and he didn’t go one lap down. I guess ARCA helped him out again.”
Stenhouse, Jr. gained some ground on Speed closing the gap to 65 points as the ARCA RE/MAX Series heads to Talladega to race Friday afternoon, October 3. The race will air live on Speed Channel at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
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. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com. For sponsorship inquiries please contact Robin Johnson at 704.720.4645.