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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Emerges With Scrappy Top Five Finish

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (47) nailed a much deserved top five finish in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

LINCOLN, Ala. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is always a name to watch out for when racing on drafting-style tracks, as all three of the 36-year-old veteran’s NASCAR Cup Series victories have come on superspeedways.

Stenhouse desperately needed a good run at Talladega Superspeedway to attempt to save the No. 47 team’s season. After a playoff berth in 2023, Stenhouse sits 27th in points and is in must-win territory already.

The weekend did not start ideal for Stenhouse, who qualified in 33rd place for the Geico 500.

Once the race began though, Stenhouse showed that there was speed in his No. 47 car. By Lap 7 Stenhouse had moved up 10 positions and was in 23rd place.

Stage 1 went caution-free, even with the drivers being three-wide for the majority of the stage. After green flag pitstops, Stenhouse continued to run in the 20’s and finished the stage in 27th place.

During the stage break everyone on the lead lap came down pit road and Stenhouse even came down a second time on Lap 66 along with eight others to top off on fuel for Stage 2.

Stage 2 also went caution-free and was very copy and paste of the first stage, besides the fuel saving was intensified. During the stage lap times were around four seconds slower than laps when the cars were going full throttle.

After the green flag pit cycle, Stenhouse found himself up in the running order and had a chance at stage points. Coming to the line to end Stage 2 Stenhouse tried and get around both Ryan Preece and Ty Gibbs for the final stage points but was unable to, finishing in 11th.

Once again all the lead lap cars came down pit road and Stenhouse restarted in 16th place when the race went back green on Lap 127.

The first caution for incident occurred on Lap 134 when the top middle lane checked up and Chase Elliott got into the back of Christopher Bell and sent him around. In total four other cars were involved.

This allowed all of the lead lap cars to come down pit road for fuel, but it would still be close if everybody could make it.

The answer to that question was no, so the seven remaining Toyota drivers came down pit road to take control of the race. The problem for the rest of the field was they knew they couldn’t make it but were trying to force people to pit, and when the Toyota did, the remaining teams didn’t have a response.

Toyota had taken control of the race, until they wrecked one another while running single-file around the bottom of the track.

On Lap 157 John Hunter Nemechek went up the track and gave an uncentered push to Bubba Wallace. This resulted in Wallace giving the same push to Erik Jones, which got Jones loose and sent him up the track and slammed the outside wall.

Denny Hamlin was also involved in the wreck and ended his day along with Jones and Wallace.

The caution bailed out the rest of the field and allowed them to come down pit road to top off on fuel for the end of the race.

On Lap 162 the race went back green with Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell leading the field. Following the Toyota accident, the field remained tame and ran mostly two-by-two until the white flag.

Coming out of Turn 4 onto the front straightaway, McDowell, Brad Keselowski and Noah Gragson were clear of the whole field to go for the win. Keselowski went high and then shot back down to the bottom of the track from second, which McDowell tried to block and it went horribly bad.

This caused McDowell to wreck and caused “The Big One” coming to the line. It also allowed Reddick to get around to get around Keselowski and steal the victory away from Ford.

Amid the pileup, Stenhouse who was running just outside of the top 10 stayed in the bottom lane and through the wreck unscathed, getting to the line and finishing in fourth place.

“I just stayed on the bottom and just missed the wrecks,” Stenhouse said post-race. “I tried to make sure we got to the line unscathed. The 99 (Daniel Suarez) clipped us, but we missed him enough to come home with a top-five.

The fourth-place results in Stenhouse’s best finish of the year, and the first top 10 for the No. 47 team since Atlanta in February.

“It feels really good,” Stenhouse said. “I feel like we’ve been better as of lately than where we’ve finished. A lot of things have contributed to some bad finishes, so it feels really good to come out of here with a top-five finish.”

Winning the DAYTONA 500 boosted Stenhouse’s season last year, something he hopes the finish today can do this season as well.

“Hopefully, this will be a boost to our season and kind of a kickstart to get us going and just see what happens,” said Stenhouse.

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