For Roush-Fenway Racing, 2017 has been a year of resurgence after a poor outing last season led to off-season restructuring for the team. Leading the charge thus far for the team’s return to relevance has been Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Sunday’s race at Richmond was just another example of how far the team has come in so little time.
After qualifying fourth, Stenhouse was strong early in the going in the 400-lap event as he held steadfast in the top-five, but contact with the Turn 2 wall at lap 67 would drop him all the way back to 30th place on the ensuing restart.
Even with the damage to his No. 17 car, Stenhouse was able to drive his way back through the field, ending the second stage in 13th place.
Over the course of the final 200 lap stage, Stenhouse ran inside the top-20 and over the closing laps used pit strategy to his advantage to move into the top-five, climbing as high as third with 15 laps to go. Though he would lose third place to Denny Hamlin, Stenhouse battled fiercely with Kevin Harvick down to the finish and was able to hold onto fourth place when the checkered flag flew.
Stenhouse now has two top-five finishes on the season, as a result of Sunday’s fourth place finish and a fourth-place finish at Phoenix, and also has finished in the top-10 on two other occasions (Martinsville and Bristol), with those four finishes coming in the last six races.
“Man, we had to fight hard for this top five,” said Stenhouse. “I made a mistake early. I thought we had a car capable of running in the top-five a lot. I just got loose into 3 and got into the fence and had to play catch-up for there. I was on the splitter. I couldn’t run my fastest lap until about la five or six. As soon as that caution came out I was like, ‘We have to stay (out)’. It worked out for us. Our Fifth Third Bank Ford was really fast. I want to thank the fans for coming out. It was a hot one.”