Sparta, Ky. (May 10, 2008) – In a caution-laden race at Kentucky Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing’s up-and-comer Ricky Stenhouse Jr. emerged victorious in only his sixth career ARCA RE/MAX Series (and stock car) start. The 20-year old from Olive Branch, Miss. qualified a disappointing 15th for Saturday night’s event but quickly showed why he’s a part of the Roush Fenway stable. Stenhouse worked his way through traffic picking off the competition one-by-one overtaking leaders Scott Speed and Michael Annett during three late-race cautions to cross the line first. Stenhouse’s finish also launched him to first in the overall point standings six weeks into the 2008 season.
In race trim the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford looked to be the one to beat but Saturday’s afternoon qualifying run wasn’t what the team expected. Stenhouse clocked in at 31.064 seconds while fellow rookie Sean Caisse landed the pole position with a 30.275 second lap. Prior to the race, Stenhouse showed confidence as he radioed to his team, “As Tim (Mooney, crew member) would say, we’ll put a drum on it and let her march”. And that’s just what he did.
The first of 10 cautions flew on lap four and Stenhouse reported the No. 99 Ford to be handling well. The field re-started on lap eight with Stenhouse in 14th and as he began his ascent to the front, he never looked back. Stenhouse broke into the top-10 on lap 25 while Annett led the field followed by Caisse. A caution on lap 26 brought several cars down pit road to stop for the first and final time gambling on fuel. The No. 99 stayed on track and continued his march.
The fourth caution flew on lap 36 and crew chief Jeff Campey called for Stenhouse to come down pit road for his one and only scheduled pit stop. Stenhouse reported that the Ford was tight in the center and off the corners so he came down pit road on lap 38 in sixth for four tires, fuel and an air pressure and track bar adjustment. The No. 99 ARCA team gave a school on how to make a perfectly choreographed pit stop gaining the rookie four positions in the pits and returning him to the track in second among the leaders that pitted. Because some leaders stayed on track, this placed Stenhouse in 14th for the restart on lap 45.
In just one lap Stenhouse jumped from 14th to ninth going four-wide in turns three and four to pass some of the leaders. The field went on their longest green flag run of the night and by caution number five on lap 75, Stenhouse was riding sixth. Two cars pitted and Stenhouse restarted in third on lap 81 looking only out the front windshield to try and chase down leaders Speed and Annett. In the closing 20 laps cautions bred more cautions which finally led to a red flag on lap 99 to clean up debris from a wreck in turns one and two, one lap shy of the full 100-lap event.
Stenhouse overtook second during the ninth restart and on the 10th restart overtook Speed for the lead. The youngster had to endure one more restart but came off turn four on lap 112 to take the checkered flag. His first career ARCA RE/MAX Series win in just his sixth career start (his first career start at the 1.5-mile oval). Speed and Ryan Fischer followed in second and third respectively. Stenhouse’s performance also launched him to first in the overall point standings, five points ahead of ARCA RE/MAX veteran Frank Kimmel.
After a celebratory burn out, Stenhouse emerged from the No. 99 Ford on the front stretch and climbed the fence to grab the checkered flag, reminiscent of his former USAC team owner Tony Stewart.
“Man, that was just awesome,” said Stenhouse in victory lane following the race. “I can’t thank everyone at Roush Fenway Racing enough for this opportunity. Lumpy (crew chief Campey) and all the guys here and at the shop gave me a fast race car tonight. And I have to thank everyone at Roush Yates engines, the No. 99 Ford was the fastest thing out there especially on the straight-aways. It was awesome. The car was good all night, we just kept having cautions and I was able to get really good restarts which helped a lot. That’s the best race I’ve had with my restarts so far.”
As for how he got to victory lane, Stenhouse had a powerful list of people to thank stating, “First I have to thank Jack Roush for the opportunity to live my dream. The No. 99 team was awesome tonight. I think they gained me like four positions on that pit stop which was a huge help. I spent a lot of time with Carl (Edwards) this week and he helped me a lot with how to drive this track so I can’t thank him enough. As well as all my other teammates like Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Erik Darnell, all of the drivers, crew chief and engineers that have helped me.”
As for the fence climbing, Stenhouse had this to say, “I figured I’d climb the fence in honor of my former boss and someone who’s helped me a lot, Tony Stewart. He gave me my shot in USAC and even though I’m at Roush Fenway, he’s still there to help me and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
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.