Ricky Stenhouse Jr.had a breakout season in 2017. He notched his first two NASCAR Cup Series wins. As a result, Stenhouse finished with a career-high 13th place in the point standings. In his fifth full season driving the #17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, Stenhouse started to find the consistency he was looking for.
The young competitor reeled in nine top-15 finishes in the first 12 races. He also notched five top 10’s during that same stretch of action. Furthermore, one of those performances saw him go to Victory Lane for the first time in his Cup Series career. It had been 158 races before the speedster finally popped his cherry. The victory came at Talladega Superspeedway in May.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. followed up that triumph with his second consecutive restrictor-plate victory. The win came at the famed Daytona International Speedway in mid-July. The two checkered flags boosted him into the playoffs for the first time in his short career. In all, Stenhouse posted career-best season numbers in top 10’s with nine. The roadster managed to drive in front of the pack for 56 laps on the year. He had an average start of 15.9 and an average finish of 17.1.
“The consistency we showed at the beginning of the season gave us confidence. It proved that we had moved the needle in the right direction in the off-season,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. “That was the turning point. We needed to continue making strides throughout the season.”
“Our organization grew and got stronger as the season went on,” Ricky Stenhouse said. “I look forward to continuing that on the restrictor-plate tracks starting at Daytona and getting stronger everywhere else. We proved we can run up front in the draft. We also proved that we have what it takes to get the car up front during crucial pit stops.”
Ricky Stenhouse entered the playoffs as the eighth seed. Most enthusiasts didn’t even expect him to be inside the top-10 at the start of the season. Unfortunately for Stenhouse, the first round didn’t go as planned. Stenhouse made contact with the wall in the playoff opener in Chicago. He repeated that performance when he also smacked the barrier once again in New Hampshire the following week.
Ricky Stenhouse finished 25th and 15th in those races. Fortunately, the youngsters 10 playoff points for the two regular-season wins helped even out the accidents. He also got credit for seven stage points that he earned after catching the caution at the right time at Dover. The combination of the two alotted him enough points to advance to the second round.
“We got lucky in the first round of the playoffs,” Ricky Stenhouse said. “The two wins also helped us get the bonus points we needed to advance. I don’t think I did a very good job behind the wheel in the playoffs. We made too many mistakes and got too wrapped up in it instead of just going out and doing my gig. I made contact with the wall in quite a few races and because had issues. We have to correct these issues or we will not be contending in the next Round of 8.”
The second round at Charlotte saw Ricky Stenhouse finish 13th. The result wasn’t great but still left the speedster plenty of wiggle room heading into the next to events. Unfortunately, crashes at Talladega and Kansas Speedway took him out of championship contention. At Talladega, Stenhouse got caught up in a multi-car accident on Lap 171. Up until then, his car displayed the power it had when he won at Daytona. The disappointing ending saw Stenhouse placed out in 26th by the race’s end.
The next week at Kansas was now a must-win scenario for Ricky Stenhouse. A cut to his right-front tire at Kansas relegated him to a 29th-place finish. In that race, it truly looked as if he might have a chance to record a top-10 result. Obviously, it just wasn’t meant to be for the #17 Fastenal team. The two bad finishes put Stenhouse 46 points behind the cutoff line for the next Round of 8. Overall, he also slipped down to 15th in the standings.
After being eliminated from the playoffs, Ricky Stenhouse climbed back up the points ladder. He went on to record an 11.2 average finish in the last four races. Impressively, those stats ranked him in seventh among all drivers in that span. Six of Stenhouse’s top 10’s this season also came at tracks one mile or less in length.
Four of those top-10’s came in the spring and fall races at Phoenix Raceway and Martinsville. His best finish in the 11 races contested at 1.5-mile tracks was 11th at Kansas Speedway in May. The team will also have to go back to the drawing board in the off-season and figure out a better way to be more competitive at those venues. If not, a top-10 in the point standings will be hard to achieve.
“When we got knocked out of the playoffs, we focused on what got us to that point. Consistency and running well,” Ricky Stenhouse said. “The guys at the shop are pumped up with our last four races being really strong. Everybody’s also ready to go back to work. The biggest thing for us is to make sure we take a step this off-season of getting better on mile-and-a-half tracks and short tracks. Also, hopefully, continue our success on superspeedways.”
Ricky Stenhouse Bio:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver for Roush Fenway Racing. The well-rounded racer earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2013. He also has eight career wins in the Xfinity Series. In that series, he captured the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in 2010. After that, he drove on to back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012. He earned his first Monster Energy Series win at Talladega in 2017. He also crossed the finish line in front in the second race at Daytona International Speedway.
Try going to BetDSI Sportsbook to see just what Las Vegas says about Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s chances of winning his first NASCAR championship.
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