Ricky Stenhouse Jr. restarted eighth on the final green-white-checkered attempt and gained three positions in the final two laps to score his first top-five finish of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season. Stenhouse ran the majority of the Auto Club 400 in the field’s top 15, before using the late run to power his way inside the top five.
“It was really good race for us,” said Stenhouse. “That was a crazy restart there at the end. We had a really good Fastenal Ford on the long run and that’s where we excelled like Atlanta and Las Vegas. Our tires were good every pit stop, which was good for us, and we made the right adjustments there at the end. Nick (Sandler) and the pit crew did a great job today. We were able to get the adjustments that we needed and were able to really rip the top there and gain a few extra spots at the end. It’s a great rebound after last weekend.”
After battling a tight machine in qualifying on Friday, the two-time XFINITY Champion started the 200-lap race in the 18th- position and steadily marched his way forward and was scored in the top-ten by lap 31.
The Fastenal Ford excelled on the long runs which is where Stenhouse was able to capitalize late in the run. On the second to last run, the Fastenal Ford was ill-handling which caused the Olive Branch, Mississippi native to lose a few spots but luckily the caution flag waved at lap 157 allowing the Blue Team to make adjustments to the Fastenal Ford.
When the final caution flag waved sending the race in to overtime, Stenhouse Jr. was running in the eighth position when Nick Sandler called him to bring his Fastenal Ford to pit-road for four fresh tires and a chassis adjustment for the final shoot-out.
Lining up in the eighth positon for the final restart, Stenhouse Jr. bullied his way forward picking up three positons in the final two laps to earn his first top-five finish of the season.
Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team is the STP500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 3. Race coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. Coverage can also be heard on MRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90.