Ahead of the Coca-Cola 600, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said that 1.5-milers have become a Roush strength this season. On Sunday night, he went on to prove it.
Rebounding from a spin early in the night, Stenhouse finished fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway – a season-best result for both Stenhouse and the Roush Fenway Racing group.
Tagged from behind by Kyle Busch on lap 87, Stenhouse went for a spin and then slide through the infield turf on the frontstretch. Because Charlotte uses turf and not grass, the No. 17 was fortunate to escape with only minimal damage to its hood.
NASCAR’s longest night played into Stenhouse and crew chief Brian Pattie’s hands. As the sun went down, Stenhouse said his car came to life, and he went on to challenge inside the top 10, evening picking up points by the end of Stage 3.
“I’ve always told people I don’t really ever feel the track change a whole lot,” said Stenhouse. “I feel like we always stay the same, but we were making a lot of adjustments. Once the sun went down I felt like the track stayed more consistent and we were able to catch up with where our car needed to be. I felt like we had a really strong car the last 200 laps, and proud to finally get a top five with it.”
Both Roush cars were in contention at the end of the night. Stenhouse’s teammate Ryan Newman lined up on the front row with two new tires but faded to a 16th-place finish. Stenhouse ended up getting a run through the middle to put him in striking distance of the top five as the checkered flag approached.
“I wasn’t real happy about that final caution, I was hoping it was just gonna run out,” said Stenhouse. “We were running down the 18 [Kyle Busch] and that was good for us. It’s been a while since we’ve been up there contending like that with caliber of a car. We did it at Kansas (when he led laps and finished 11th) and came back here and struggled at the All-Star Race, but we made really good changes to get ready for the 600 and felt really, really good with it. That’s something to build on.
“We still have to get more consistent throughout the race. Having a car like that at the end, we need to be able to have stage points throughout the whole race. All in all, a great night for us, a good points night, and we just have to keep this momentum going that we started at Kansas.”