By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A wreck in final practice has left Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s team scrambling during the first enhanced weekend of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
With just two practice sessions before the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and qualifying after, Stenhouse will be limited to just the laps he turns in qualifying at Martinsville Speedway. Regardless of where he qualifies, he will start from the rear of the field due to the back-up car.
Stenhouse’s No. 17 Fastenal Ford Fusion spun, wheel-hopping as he entered turn three with about 30 minutes of practice left. The right rear fender backed hard into the outside wall of the ‘Paperclip.’ Stenhouse’s car also suffered damage to the right front fender and suspension. His Roush Fenway Racing crew wasted no time pulling the back-up out of the hauler.
“We had planned on doing like 40 laps and a long run and then come in, making a change and doing another one, but going in turn three I got on the brakes and got wheel-hop, which we haven’t had in two or three races here,” Stenhouse explained. “When I first started coming to Martinsville in my career I had a lot of wheel-hop and I actually did that a lot here, so it kind of caught me off-guard that we had it. It’s been a while since we’ve had it here, so that was a bummer. We’ll get our Fastenal Ford backup car and get it ready to race for tomorrow. We’ve had really good cars on the long run here. We’ve got good notes, so we’ll put the setup in there we had last year and go from there.”
In 10 starts at the 0.526-mile oval, Stenhouse has just two top-10 finishes. Both came last year when he finished 10th in both Martinsville races. Historically, Martinsville has been one of Stenhouse’s worst tracks. Out of his 10 starts, he has seven finishes of 25th or worse.
Now Stenhouse and his team will have to scramble to prepare for qualifying for the tomorrow’s STP 500.