Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

2020 Cup Series Season Preview: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.

Age: 32

Years in Cup: Seven

Career Wins: Two

Accomplishments: 2x Xfinity Series champion (2011 and 2012)

The year 2019 was indeed forgettable for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who had his worst Cup Series season in recent memory.

Stenhouse’s lone top-five was in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, where he finished fifth. One of the few times in his career he scored a top-five outside of the superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) and Bristol.

Other than that, he finished an abysmal 25th in points and an average finish of 20.5. When comparing seasons with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ryan Newman, who was entering his first year with the team, it’s a night-and-day difference.

Incidents ended Stenhouse’s race five times and finished 30th or worse seven times, while Newman had two finishes outside the top-30 and a crash during the fall Kansas race being his only DNF.

Add insult to injury, Newman regularly out beat him, highlighted with a playoff berth and a superb average finish of 14.6. Those sour grapes proved to be a breaking point as RFR sacked Stenhouse in favor of Chris Buescher.

This ended a 10-year relationship between the driver and race team where Stenhouse scored two Cup victories in 2017 and back-to-back Xfinity Series titles.

All was not lost for the Olive Branch, Mississippi native as he and crew chief Brian Pattie will enter 2020 with a brand new identity as they’ve joined Buscher’s old team, JTG Daugherty Racing.

It’ll be the first time since joining the national touring level Stenhouse will drive for team and make other than Roush and Ford. He’s hoping a brand new chapter into his career will be a positive transition that could not only get him back in the right direction, but also help the No. 47 team hit amazing strides they’ve yet to reach.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to join JTG Daugherty Racing next season,” Stenhouse said. “To be able to see what Tad, Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad (Daugherty) have built over the years says a lot about the team and the organization both on and off the track. JTG has grown from a small team in a barn to a two-car team with more than 100 employees, and I’m looking forward to joining the family. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and ready to go win races with the ultimate goal of making the Playoffs and competing for a championship.”

Co-owner Tad Geschickter commented by having both fierce competitors of Stenhouse and sophomore driver Ryan Preece, a chance of creating tremendous buzz is possible this season.

“We’re very fortunate to have Ricky join us next season to continue to elevate our racing program at JTG Daugherty Racing,” Tad said. “Ricky brings a lot of experience and talent to the team, and we know we can have two Playoff-contending teams next season with him and Ryan Preece at the helm of our cars.”

The last time Geschickter’s team made the playoffs was in 2014 with A.J. Allmendinger. It remains the only season to date they’ve accomplished this feat since debuting in Cup in 2009.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.