After picking up seven stage points in stage one of Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at the Monster Mile, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove his Fastenal Ford to a 19th-place finish securing his spot in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12. With the points resetting after each round, Stenhouse is currently seeded in the eighth position out of 12.
“We caught the caution there right at the right time with a perfect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points,” Stenhouse said. “That was definitely the turning point of the day. Our Fastenal Ford was definitely not close to what we needed, especially the last two runs. We were close before the last two runs and made some adjustments there and really fell off.
“All in all, like I said, I feel lucky that we had all the mistakes at Chicago and really not a good car at Chicago, Loudon or Dover but we still made it in. Really it is hats off to the guys for fighting all day and it is nice that the round starts over.”
After rolling off 15th in the 400-lap race, the Olive Branch, Miss. native lost a few positions early on due to an ill-handling Roush Fenway Ford. As the leaders started to pit under green flag conditions, crew chief Brian Pattie decided to long pit in hopes of a caution. As Stenhouse was about to bring his Fastenal Ford to pit-road for a scheduled stop, the No. 33 spun, bringing out the caution.
With only five cars on the lead lap, Stenhouse restarted in the third position and was able to hang on and take the green checkered at the end of stage one picking up seven valuable stage points.
After restarting in the 10th position for the second 120-lap stage, the 2017 NASCAR Playoff contender was shuffled back a handful of positions as a result of a tight-handling condition. As the race progressed, Stenhouse reported that he was extremely loose causing him to take the green checkered for the end of stage two in the 18th position.
With the final stage going caution free, the two-time XFINITY champion was able to hang on to take the checkered flag in the 19th position despite battling an ill-handling Ford. With the result, Stenhouse held on to a two-point advantage over Ryan Newman to advance to the Round of 12.
Next week, Stenhouse and the No. 17 team get to race at their home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway.