Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rallied back after an early-race spin to drive his Fastenal Ford to an 14th-place finish in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Auto Club Speedway.
“We started the race really good,” Stenhouse said. “The later in the race, our Fastenal Ford just got too tight. We gambled there early on but spun out on the restart which set us back all race. We kept fighting and restarted sixth for the final 31 laps but just couldn’t hold on. It was still a decent finish for us overall in the big picture.”
The two-time Xfinity champion started the 200-lap race in the 12th position but quickly bullied his way up front gaining 10 positions in the first five laps. When green flag pit-stops started cycling through, Stenhouse relinquished his seventh-place position to get four tires, fuel, and a chassis adjustment in hopes of helping his loose handling condition. When the caution flag waved on lap 57, Stenhouse was scored in the 17th position.
Crew chief Brian Pattie played strategy telling Stenhouse to stay out where he would restart on the outside row for the one lap shootout to stage end in hopes of gaining valuable stage points. On the restart, the Fastenal Ford spun out in the midst of four wide racing bringing out the caution and the end of stage one.
After multiple pit-stops, the Olive Branch, Miss. native restarted stage two in the 23rd position. With a caution free stage, Stenhouse fell a lap down to the leaders due to an extremely tight condition but was scored the lucky dog when the second green checkered flag waved.
During scheduled green flag pit-stops, the caution flag waved trapping multiple cars a lap down. Stenhouse fortunately hadn’t brought his Fastenal Ford to pit-road scoring the Roush Fenway Racing driver in the third position. The crew worked feverishly on resetting the toe in hopes to help the tightness for the final laps.
Stenhouse Jr. restarted in the sixth position with 31 laps remaining but was unable to hang on forcing him to settle with a 14th-place finish.
Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team is the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, March 24. Race coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. Coverage can also be heard on MRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90.