Ricky Stenhouse Jr. should be considered a great dark horse this week at Chicagoland Speedway for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400. Before crashing at Kentucky on lap nine of 267, he scored five straight results of 10th through 16th on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has scored only one top-10 on two-mile tracks at the Cup level during his career. The good news is that came earlier this season; the bad news is that it came at Auto Club Speedway.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came up one position shy of winning the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which would have locked him into the Chase. Still, his runner-up finish was the second time in his career that he finished second on this track. Stenhouse finished second to Carl Edwards in spring 2014.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. failed to advance to the second round of qualification for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. His lap of 128.279 mph was good enough for only 25th.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun in the final minutes of practice for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but managed to keep his Ford off the wall.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been considered one of the top dark horses in pre-race coverage, but was not able to back that up in the first practice session. His time of 123.043 mph was only 28th on the average speed chart.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has sustained some crash damage in eight of his 22 attempts this year, which equates to 36 percent of the time.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway with three straight top-15s on NASCAR’s minimally-banked courses. He finished 15th in the Axalta 400 on this track, 10th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and was 12th last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has gotten progressively better in five flat track starts this year. He started the season 37th at Phoenix International Raceway in the Good Sam 500, improved to 32nd at Martinsville Speedway, 26th at Richmond International Raceway, broke into the top 15 at Pocono (15th), and was 10th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last week.
At the beginning of the week, Rotoworld’s coverage suggested Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the entire Roush-Fenway Racing organization would make good dark horses. The No. 17 finished 10th, following teammate Greg Biffle into the top 10.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. suffered through three consecutive flat tracks races at Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway last fall, and on that same track this spring with crash damage. His fenders were intact this spring at Martinsville, but he managed to finish only 32nd—six laps off the pace. Finally in the Toyota Owners 400 this April, he went the distance and turned his fortune around.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished fifth in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, which was the first time this season that Roush-Fenway Racing placed two drivers in the top five. Trevor Bayne finished third.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. posted a lap of 192.320 mph in the final round of qualification for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway and will line up fourth on the grid—his career best start on this track.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has one of the five worst place-differentials with an average loss of nearly six positions each week. This has been a consistent pattern, with all but four of his first 15 races this season ending worse than it started.