Home Sports NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. getting back on track after slow start

NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. getting back on track after slow start

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could not have had a bumpier return to racing after NASCAR’s 10-week shutdown.

How bad was it? Stenhouse crashed on the first lap of the first race back and finished last.

He followed it with a 25th-place finish at the second Cup race at Darlington Raceway, then was 24th in the Coca-Cola 600. In three races, Stenhouse plummeted seven spots in the standings to 24th.

Stenhouse finally snapped out of it Thursday night in a second visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway with a fourth-place finish for his new JTG-Daugherty Racing team.

“It was just really good to just have a smooth race with really no issues,” Stenhouse said. “It was just huge to get a good run in and pass a lot of really good cars.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., right, with a crew member during the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., right, with a crew member during the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.Getty Images

Next up is Sunday’s stop at Bristol Motor Speedway — the fifth Cup race since NASCAR resumed May 17 and a decent track for Stenhouse. His six-career top-10 finishes rank Bristol behind only Talladega Superspeedway at tracks where Stenhouse has delivered.

This is Stenhouse’s first season at JTG but he surrounded himself with familiar faces from his Roush Fenway Racing tenure that include longtime crew chief Brian Pattie. The duo is making the transition from racing in a Ford to a Chevrolet now and preparing for events that don’t include practice or qualifying.

As NASCAR tries to make up eight postponed points races the schedule has been condensed into one-day shows, and teams don’t have two or more practice sessions to dial-in a setup. Stenhouse and Chris Buescher essentially swapped rides at the end of 2019, and Buescher’s old notes from Bristol are at their disposal.

“Our setups, looking at what we normally run versus what they ran here, are pretty similar, so I feel good about that,” Stenhouse said, adding that he’s quickly getting comfortable in the Camaro and NASCAR current aerodynamic package.

“The feel that I have in this race car is better than any of the feel that I had in my Cup cars over my career so far,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to Bristol knowing that we’ve had good runs there. We’ve had chances to win there. It would be nice to be able to get up and go lead some laps, and contend for a win there as well.”

The field was set by a random draw and Brad Keselowski again got the lucky pull for the pole. He will start first for the second time in five races.

It was a strong lottery for Team Penske, which got all three of its drivers in the first two rows. Joey Logano will start second and Ryan Blaney third.

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