Following an eight race skid in which promising runs were derailed by a myriad of issues, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. found some sunshine on Monday afternoon at Dover Motor Speedway.
The 34-year-old Olive Branch, Mississippi native needed a morale booster for his No. 47 Kroger/The Frozen Farmer Chevrolet team. Certainly, the 12-year NASCAR Cup Series veteran has showcased flashes of brilliance with fast cars, solid pit stops and keen strategies by crew chief, Brian Pattie.
However, misfortunes have derailed the two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. Ranked 31st heading into the postponed, Monday running of the DuraMax Drydene 400 in Dover, Delaware, the two-time Cup race winner kept his head down with an efficient, clean race.
After placing 12th in stage 1, the versatile wheelman drove to a fifth place result in stage 2, netting six stage points and optimum track position for the final stage.
Stenhouse’s performance and run was not the result of lucking into track position or a caution that relegated contenders down the serial running order. In this case, this was a strong showing by merit from a cagey, grizzled veteran who can still wheel a stock car.
Mixing it up with the likes of Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Ross Chastain, Stenhouse made the most of his race day with his second place finish at the 1-mile concrete oval. The runner-up result boosted Stenhouse to 27th in the points standings, one of two critical caveats to qualify for the Playoffs.
Once Stenhouse clambered out of his No. 47 Chevy, he reflected on his season and the confidence booster from his stellar result.
“Man, it’s been a rough start to the season,” Stenhouse considered. “Our short track program has been off. All our other good races that we’ve had good runs going, something has always happened. Really good to put this all together.”
Moreover, Stenhouse gave kudos to his team while ushering in a new partnership for his JTG Daugherty Racing organization. A little motivation certainly showcased itself with the determined racer.
“We had a brand-new partner, The Frozen Farmer, they’re from 40 minutes down the road,” he shared. “The whole family is here. Really great day for us. I felt like we had a car capable of winning.
“Obviously getting off pit road at different times. My pit crew did a great job keeping us up front all day. This feels good. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum on.”
Given how nine different drivers have won in 2022, it’d be foolish to dismiss Stenhouse as a potential Playoff contender.
After all, the NASCAR Cup Series, with the current car and parity throughout the field provides more reasons to consider the Mississippian for one of the final postseason spots up for grabs through the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 27.
“The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us,” Stenhouse said. “That was a lot of fun. A lot of battling. It was tough to pass, but it was fun running through lap traffic.
“I really wish we had like a 70-lap run to end there. All in all our Kroger team is doing a great job, looking forward to carrying that momentum on.”