By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Prior to Dover Motor Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s 2022 NASCAR Cup Series campaign has been an eye sore. After Monday’s conclusion of the DuraMAX Drydene 400, Stenhouse had plenty to smile about after finishing second at “The Monster Mile.”
Aside from a 10th at Auto Club Speedway in late February, Stenhouse’s third season with JTG Daugherty Racing has had nothing but downs all across the board. At track’s he’s normally done well, no result to shown for. It hit its lowest point last Sunday after taken out in a multi-car crash at Talladega that knocked him out of the top-30 in points.
As the race unfolded, Stenhouse gradually got better as several top contenders either had tire problems or were snake bitten on pit road. Towards the end of the race, Stenhouse was slowly catching Chase Elliott, but wasn’t able to keep the momentum going and wound up losing to the 2020 champion.
While a shot of snapping both his and the team’s winless streak will have to wait another race, scoring a top-five was a much needed shot in the arm.
“It’s been a rough start to the season,” said Stenhouse. “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. We had a brand-new partner, The Frozen Farmer, they’re from 40 minutes down the road. 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.”
Monday’s top-five marked Stenhouse’s first since the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol last year where he also finished second. As far as the championship standings, Stenhouse gained four spots and will head into the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway 27th in points.
“This feels good. Hopefully we can carry this momentum on. The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us,” Stenhouse explained.
“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.”