By David Morgan, Associate Editor
LEBANON, Tenn. – The pairing of JTG Daugherty Racing and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will continue into the foreseeable future after the team announced a multi-year contract extension with the Olive Branch, Miss. native on Friday.
Stenhouse, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, began his Cup career with Roush Fenway before moving over to JTG in 2020 to take over driving duties in the No. 47 Chevrolet.
While Stenhouse has yet to make a return to Victory Lane since that time, he has been able to show some speed along the way, capturing five top-five finishes, 11 top-10 finishes and 26 top-15 finishes, as well as the pole for the 2020 Daytona 500.
Through the first 16 races of the 2022 season, Stenhouse has scored one top-five finish and five top-10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Dover back in May. In fact, the entire month of May did not see Stenhouse finish lower than eighth-place.
Stenhouse noted that the combination of the Next Gen car coming online this season as well as the environment in the JTG shop made it a place he wanted to be well into the future.
“I really have enjoyed my time at JTG,” Stenhouse said. “I feel like, you know, we haven’t had the end results points-wise, but I feel like we’ve had so many bright spots throughout our first few seasons together. I feel like, you know, with this new car, we were hoping to have it last year and continue to build on that. And, you know, obviously this is the first year with it.
“I know for me and the way this car’s been, I feel like certain racetracks, we kind of have it figured out, and then there’s other racetracks where we’re pretty out to lunch. We’re still looking for those parts and pieces to be in the right spot to be fast, but I feel confident with the people that we have that we will be able to do that.
“Tad and everybody at Kroger’s put a lot of faith in me to come over here and drive the car. And I think we’ve shown some really solid, strong runs this year. Had opportunity to win at Dover. I felt like at Charlotte, we had a really fast car. I think that’s the reason why. I just really enjoy the family atmosphere, from top down. Everybody in our shop, our partners, it’s been a really good relationship.”
With 10 races remaining in the regular season and Stenhouse sitting 24th in points, if a run at the Playoffs is in the cards, he and the team will have to get themselves in gear starting this weekend at Nashville. Given the track sits 4.5 hours from his hometown in Northern Mississippi, he has added incentive to run well on Sunday.
“In the Xfinity Series, this was my home race track,” Stenhouse said. “You know, once Memphis was off the schedule. I mean, it’s close to home, got a lot of friends and family that live in the area. And then obviously, you know, for my family coming up from home, it’s, you know, four, four and a half hours. So, really close to home.
“It’s always nice to have family around and friends that, you know, want to come out and support you and racing. And then obviously friends in the music industry that want to come out here as well. So definitely feels like a home game. I wouldn’t say that Nashville in my Xfinity Series days was like top of the list, but after last year I had a lot of fun. So hopefully, it stays there.
Stenhouse has run well at the concrete tracks in the past, bringing home a sixth-place finish in last year’s inaugural race at Nashville.
“We’re hoping for another good concrete track run at Nashville like we had at Dover where we finished second with our No. 47 Kroger/The Frozen Farmer Camaro,” said Stenhouse Jr. “This style of racetrack has been better for us than some of the other ones and I love Nashville. It was a really good track for us last year, but of course it’s a totally different car. The biggest thing for us is to have a good practice session on Friday and make sure we have a car that handles good and is easy on the tires for our race.”