While Carl Edwards stole the show at Bristol Motor Speedway with his win, there were a cast of characters who had some solid finishes and created storylines of their own. One of those drivers was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished second for his best career Sprint Cup Series finish to date.
The finish for Stenhouse is very welcome following struggles at Phoenix and Las Vegas. It’s also reassurance that the moves that Roush-Fenway Racing made in the off-season are working as RFR made the decision to partner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. back up with Mike Kelley.
Stenhouse spent his rookie season with Scott Graves, only scoring one top five and three top 10s all season. Now back with Kelley who led him to the Nationwide Series Championship, Stenhouse has two top 10s in the first four races this year.
“It’s been nice working with Mike and the guys again. We’re having a lot of fun,” Stenhouse commented. “We’re just slowly working and getting better and better. I thought we were a lot better than our finish last week at Las Vegas except I sped on pit road. I think we’ve got some good cars and everybody at the shop is working hard on building those.”
Stenhouse ran inside the top 10 most of the night and with 76 laps to go, Kelley’s call to keep Stenhouse out on track helped lead to a great finish for the sophomore driver.
“Our car was definitely (better), compared to last year,” Stenhouse commented. “We could not roll the bottom, and I thought this year the work we’ve done in the off-season, it seemed like Aric and Carl and my car, it seemed like it rolled the bottom a lot better than we were able to last year.
“We focused on that a lot during practice because if you look back at these races, the cars that are up front every race here at Bristol are able to run the bottom when they need to. I was really happy with being able to run bottom, middle, top, enter in on the top and turn and drive across the bottom. I was really, really happy with our car and the changes that we’ve made and the progress we’ve made from last year.”
When a late caution flew, Stenhouse thought that he had a shot and said if he could, he would use the bumper and nudge his way by Edwards.
“If you get the win, you’re in the Chase and you can let the rest take care of itself later,” Stenhouse added. “That’s what I was really thinking if we went back green. Aric, I saw that he was really strong on the restart before, and I thought him and I were really pretty good on the bottom, and Carl seemed to be a little too loose as soon as we went back green. I would have ran it in there pretty hard, and he knows I would have. We’ve had a few races in Nationwide where they came down to the wire like that, and we both drive really hard.
“I was thinking about doing whatever I could to win.”
Stenhouse will look to continue the positive momentum this week at Auto Club Speedway, where he hopes that his California dreams come true.