Despite going a lap down early due to making a shock change under caution, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 17 SunnyD Team rallied back to score a third-place finish in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Talladega Superspeedway.
“We definitely had to fight hard today,” Stenhouse said. “We fought hard and made a lot of adjustments to try and make our car faster. It seemed work a little bit there we obviously fell on the lucky side of having to pit and having enough fuel, so everything worked out for us today. To get that good finish and back-to-back top 10s is a solid start.”
After advancing to the final round of qualifying, the Olive Branch, Miss. native lined up in the 12th position for the 188-lap race. When the first caution waved just 10 laps in, Stenhouse was scored in the 20th position after battling a tight handling car in the draft. Stenhouse worked his way up to the ninth position but fell back to 18th in typical plate race fashion when the first green checkered waved.
After making big changes to the SunnyD Ford during the stage break, the 2017 Talladega winner restarted in the 20th position and was working his way forward before another caution was displayed with 85 laps remaining. Crew chief Brian Pattie decided to change front shocks under the caution to improve the handling. Unfortunately, the change cost Stenhouse to lose a lap to leaders forcing him to settle with a 32nd-place finish in stage two.
A much needed caution was displayed on lap 136 allowing the Roush Fenway Racing driver to be awarded the free pass and get back on the lead lap. After restarting in the 31st position, Stenhouse steadily worked his way forward and was scored in the eighth position when the caution flag was displayed sending the race into over-time. On the final green-white-checkered restart, Stenhouse lined up in the eighth position and bullied his way forward scoring a third-place finish.
Stenhouse and the No. 17 team head to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400. The race is set for Sunday, Oct. 21. Coverage will begin at 2 p.m. (EST) on NBC.