By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Public enemy No. 1 after the last restrictor plate race at Daytona in July, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was able to avoid instigating trouble and finished a salvageable third in Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the highest non-Stewart-Haas Racing finisher.
Although it was a clean race, Stenhouse felt his No. 17 Sunny D Ford Fusion wasn’t as competitive as his car has been in previous restrictor plate races.
“We definitely had to fight hard today,” Stenhouse said. “We weren’t near as good as we normally are at the speedways, so that was a real bummer, but we fought hard and made a lot of adjustments to try and make our car faster.”
Last spring’s winner came from restarting in eighth to well inside the top-five coming to white flag after Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski’s fuel tank went south before the restart.
Entering Turn 3, Stenhouse was trying to make the outside lane work by drafting Aric Almirola, and they were successful at the expense of leader Kurt Busch, who ran out of gas.
With Busch out of the running, Stenhouse was behind Almirola, but wasn’t able to amount a charge and score his second win at Talladega thanks to Almirola’s teammate Clint Bowyer, who ditched the 31-year-old veteran and went to the bottom.
SHR went on to finish 1-2 while Stenhouse crossed the line in third for his third top-five of the season, making it three straight top-fives on plate circuits.
The result also marked his first consecutive string of top-ten results this season after finishing ninth last week at Dover.
Stenhouse said he was flattered by accomplishing this feat and not worrying about his tank reading empty like three other Ford drivers.
“It seemed to work a little bit there and obviously fell on the lucky side of having to pit and having enough fuel,” Stenhouse said. “So everything worked out good for us today to get that good finish and back-to-back top 10s is a start.”
Heading into the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway Oct. 21, Stenhouse will look to improve from his 11th place result in May and score his third straight top-10, which he hasn’t done since last spring when he scored ninth at Bristol, fourth at Richmond, and his first win at Talladega.