Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fought hard in his No. 17 Fastenal Ford for 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon to earn a 10th-place finish at the half-mile track. The top-10 is Stenhouse's first at the Virginia short track.
“Going into today we had better hopes for Martinsville than normal,” said Stenhouse. “When we got turned, I thought that our day was going to go like it usually does. We fought hard all day. We got our car better all day. I was really good on long runs. I really needed long runs. Those cautions really stacked me up. Once I got going I was really good.”
Rain on Friday canceled qualifying, which left Stenhouse with a 24th-place starting position for the 263-mile race. Early in the race, Stenhouse began making progress, gaining a few positions in the opening laps. That progress was halted when contact with a competitor caused the No. 17 Ford to spin on Lap 70.
Stenhouse visited pit road for four tires and fuel and to make sure that the fenders would not cause a tire rub. On Lap 76, the No. 17 Ford restarted 36th, one lap down. When the caution flag flew 30 laps later, crew chief Brian Pattie opted to keep Stenhouse on the track to try and get closer to the free pass position.
Pattie’s plan worked well, with Stenhouse getting the free pass to get back on the lead lap at the conclusion of stage one. During the break in action between rounds, Stenhouse visited pit road for fresh tires and fuel, along with air pressure and wedge adjustments.
As the free pass recipient, Stenhouse was required to restart stage two at the tail end of the longest line, in 27th position. With stage two running caution-free, Stenhouse was forced to battle the leader to remain on the lead lap. With a power move on the No. 18, Stenhouse took his spot back on the lead lap just before the conclusion of the second stage.
Stenhouse started stage three in 16th on Lap 274. As is characteristic of the tough, close racing at Martinsville Speedway, Stenhouse’s No. 17 Fastenal Ford accumulated some cosmetic damage during stage three that forced the team to make several pit stops for repairs under caution.
As the laps wound down, Stenhouse and team did not give up, ultimately crossing the finish line in 10th.