By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Few if any Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers had a more eventful weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway than Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Although the Food City 500 was interrupted by the weather on four separate occasions, three resulting in red flags, it went the entire 500-lap distance. Stenhouse looked to be a threat to win late before finishing inside the top five.
During the longest green flag run of the day, Stenhouse’s No. 17 SunnyD Ford Fusion was the fastest car on the track. He sliced through the field after restarting in the back-half of the top-10. After Stenhouse finally cleared eventual race winner Kyle Busch for the second position the caution waved. Despite a hard-fought battle with Kyle Larson for the lead, he slipped backwards, eventually finishing in fourth.
“I didn’t feel really good once we restarted there,” Stenhouse explained. “Just didn’t have a lot of grip compared to the restarts before where I felt really good all race long on restarts. That was a bummer, but all-in-all it was fun. I figured I had to get to him (Larson). He was really loose, and I was able to get underneath him. Then I couldn’t quite clear him. It would have been nice if I could have cleared him, but we still didn’t have the best car on the short run. We were definitely a better long run car.”
Two laps after the first stoppage for rain, Stenhouse’s Food City 500 almost ended in disaster. He spun off of turn four after contact from Erik Jones. Somehow in the long and slow slide, no one hit him. However, Stenhouse now found himself mired deep in the field. It wouldn’t be until the following day that he was able to climb back through the field.
“Last year was really good for us, but finally to put it all together here in this race, the whole weekend is refreshing,” Stenhouse said. “It was good.”
The fourth-place finish was Stenhouse’s first of the 2018 season and 12thof his career. It also moves him up to the 18thposition in the Championship Standings, 203-points behind Points Leader Busch, and eight points behind the Playoff cutoff held by Paul Menard. It is also Stenhouse’s first top-five since his win in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in July last year.
Now Stenhouse and the entire Roush Fenway Racing team will look to carry this momentum into Richmond Raceway on Saturday, April 21 for the Toyota Owners 400.