After a late race caution sent the race into overtime, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gained three positions in the final laps to earn a 14th – place finish in Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Kentucky Speedway.
“Track position was crucial,” Stenhouse said. “I would get behind a car and then couldn’t do anything. We will go back to the drawing board and try to improve some more on our intermediate program. We will take the top-15 finish and move on to Loudon which has been a good track for us in the past.”
The Olive Branch, Miss. native started the 267-lap race in the 18th position but fell a few positions early on due to being trapped in the outside lane as the inside lane was the preferred groove on restarts. With only one caution in the first stage, Stenhouse was scored in the 21st position when the green checkered waved.
With a flurry of cautions on restarts at the beginning of stage two, the two-time MENCS winner fought his way into the top-10 by lap 103 of the 267 – lap race. After gambling and taking fuel only to maintain track position, new tires prevailed costing Stenhouse to lose a couple of positions in the closing laps of stage two.
Hoping that clean air would help the handling of the Fifth Third Ford, crew chief Brian Pattie called for two tires and fuel under the caution at the end of stage two. Stenhouse Jr. lined up in the fourth position for the final stage but was unable to hold on after the last stage went caution free until the caution was displayed on lap 267 sending the race into over-time.
With few cars one lap down, Brian Pattie called Stenhouse to pit-road for four fresh tires and a splash of fuel for the final shootout. Lining up in the 17th position, the Roush Fenway Racing driver gained three positions in the closing laps to take the checkered flag in the 14th position.
Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 16. Race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Coverage can also be heard on PRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90.