Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t hide from his rough night at Daytona International Speedway, facing all reporters who approached him after the race.
And even though he left the garage area with a police escort, Stenhouse didn’t think he would need to smooth over any hard feelings after a crash-filled Coke Zero Sugar 400.
“No, it’s aggressive speedway racing,” Stenhouse said. “We needed to win to get in the playoffs, so it is what it is.”
Stenhouse was the primary driver involved in triggering two of the biggest wrecks Saturday night. The first accident on Lap 55 involved 23 other cars.
Bump drafting fellow Ford driver Brad Keselowski going into Turn 3 sent Keselowski spinning in front of the field. However, Keselowski didn’t put the entire blame on Stenhouse, saying a block from leader William Byron led to the contact.
“Yeah, I thought [Byron] blocked him, but I did that here in February and threw an aggressive block down the back straightaway that in turn caused a big crash like that too,” said Stenhouse. “I can see it from Byron’s side, and from my side, I was a little frustrated he threw the block, but then again I can’t be too mad because I felt like I did that in February.”
The second accident occurred on Lap 66. Running third, Stenhouse tagged the left rear of Kyle Busch’s car, and Busch spun down the banking and collected race leader Byron. In all, six cars were involved.
“I was really bummed. The first [accident], the 24 blocked the 2 and from where I was sitting I thought we were gonna get to the inside of him, so I wasn’t really expecting him to check up that quick,” said Stenhouse. “The second one with the 18, I was just too aggressive trying to get to his left rear, trying to get back to the lead and back out front where our Fifth Third Ford was really dominant. We definitely brought, I feel like, the best car here in the field.”
The defending race winner did lead the most laps (51) and won the first two stages.
After remaining in contention throughout the chaos, Stenhouse’s chances for a win took a big hit when he was collected in a wreck that was not of his doing. He was running behind Kyle Larson when a tire blew on the Chip Ganassi Racing car on Lap 125, sending Larson spinning into Stenhouse and causing his first significant damage of the night.
A subsequent tire rub would then lead Stenhouse to spin on his own on Lap 151, further damaging his car. He was later collected in the last big wreck of the night on Lap 163 and limped home to a 17th-place finish.
“Winning two stages was nice, but obviously we wanted to win at the end, and it’s a bummer we basically crashed all of our teammates out of it,” said Stenhouse. “It was kind of tough after that, and it all came back to get me with the damage from the 42, which was probably a wreck I caused, cut a tire down in front of us.
“A bummer of a night. Congrats to Erik [Jones] on his first win. That’s pretty cool, but I felt like there for most of the race we had the best shot at it.”
To end the night, Stenhouse took to social media to accept that “I made too many mistakes.”