By: Ashley McCubbin
Although Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has ran up front on the restrictor plate tracks, and scored his pair of career victories at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, there’s one thing missing from his resume – a Daytona 500 victory.
“it would be awesome for me and everybody on our race team, it would be our biggest accomplishment,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “That’s our goal going down there. We’re preparing to leave our car in the Daytona Hall of Fame down there and that’s what we want to do. It would be huge for us and would really be a game-changer for everybody in our race team and organization. From starting small to growing big, it would be huge.”
He attributes a little bit of luck, good chemistry with the team, and a good handling car to his ability to run up front on a constant basis and finish strong to his four top-10’s in his last 16 restrictor plate starts.
“Speed is important and my team is building me some fast race cars for those superspeedways, but it’s got to handle good,” he explained. “When you have both of those combinations, you feel like you’re able to make some moves that maybe other people can’t throughout the race and put yourself in better positions. I’m always trying to learn what side drafts work best with the configurations and rules packages. I think everybody is petty advanced on what those drafting scenarios are compared to when I came in the sport back in 2009, 2010. I feel like everybody has learned so much more that it makes us all really tough and aggressive out on the race track. It makes it fun.”
In looking to handle well at Daytona, Stenhouse notes the importance of being able to get a strong run off of turn four is critical, as being tight off there and getting out of the throttle is where a lot of people can get runs to take positions. Also getting the handling in the right ballpark enables you to pull off strategy, such as fuel only on the final pit stop, to therefore gain the necessary track position.
In preparation for the Daytona 500, Stenhouse has glanced back at last year’s event, where he scored a 20th-place finish following a penalty for passing below the yellow line. The loss in track position due to the penalty ultimately resulted in him getting caught up in a wreck coming to pit road, ending his chances.
“I feel really good about our Kroger Camaro going down to Daytona again,” he said. “The boys have been working really hard; massaging on it in the shop. And I’m excited for Pole night. I think, for us, it’s just doing all those little things right and making sure we do our job because being at JTG Daugherty Racing, you have me and (Ryan) Preece and that’s the only people we can count on. You can’t count on anybody else, so it’s nice to have a car capable of doing maybe things other people feel like they can’t do with their car. And that’s what you get when you pay attention to all those details that Brian (Pattie, crew chief) and our team does.
“So, I’m excited to get back down there and limit those mistakes. You don’t feel like it’s a big mistake, but one little thing can take you out of contention.”