Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked out of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire on Lap 138 and placed the blame on Erik Jones.
Stenhouse’s No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford cut down a left front tire and then slammed the wall off Turn 2, and Stenhouse believes previous contact with Jones’ No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led to the tire going down.
“The 20 ran over us,” said Stenhouse. “He’s been known to do that to us a couple of times now lately. He’ll get one coming his way before it’s over with, or at least before I’m through with it.
“Our Fastenal Ford just wasn’t near as good as what we wanted it to be. I felt we were OK in practice. We qualified well, and the first stage was going OK, but then we just lose the front turn in our car and never really could get it back.
“We were looking forward to hopefully making some more adjustments there before the end of the race and we just didn’t get the opportunity to after that left front. All in all, it was a frustrating day for us, but hopefully, we can learn something from it and come back with something better.”
Jones had made multiple pit stops on the previous caution for damage repairs on his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, taking away his track position. He was working his way back through the field when he encountered Stenhouse.
“We had that restart with him up front and didn’t have any issues, so he’s run over us a couple times, but that’s his deal,” said Stenhouse. “He’s gonna have to deal with it at some point.”
Jones entered New Hampshire as the driver on the playoff bubble by two points. Stenhouse will fall further behind with his third DNF of the season, having already been over 40 points outside a transfer spot.
Was Stenhouse planning to confront Jones? “I will — outside the car or inside the car — one of the two. I’m over it. We’ll see how it goes.”
Jones appeared unfazed by Stenhouse’s comments when they were shared with him after the checkered flag.
“I guess go ahead,” said Jones. “He was racing me really hard for nothing. We were 200 laps to go in the race, and he had the choice to lift and let me go and didn’t do it for five laps; and that’s just how it is. If you’re going to race hard, you’re going to get raced hard. I didn’t want to have to do it, but sometimes it comes down to it. I like Ricky, but he races really hard.
“If I’m going to race Kevin Harvick at the front of the field like that 10 laps in a row, I’m going to get wrecked. You got to do what you got to do to keep moving forward and keep giving yourself a good day.”
Jones continued and battled back from multiple issues to finish third.
“It was up and down,” Jones said of his day. “We definitely could have had a cleaner day.”
In addition to the contact with Stenhouse and losing his track position when he needed multiple stops to repair body damage, Jones was also forced to recover from a speeding penalty. Crew chief Chris Gayle then kept him on track for what was the final restart of the race, and Jones only lost one position.
“It was kind of a sloppy day in my opinion, but it was a good day,” said Jones. “We got good stage points in the first stage and finished well at the end. The Stanley Camry was good. All day I felt like we were close, we just needed to get up front and never quite did that. Never quite got the lead, but we were there. Again, up in the top five, you can’t complain, and especially with the points we gained today. It’s good.
“We can definitely get more aggressive with that gap. We’re getting close there to having almost a race on them. If we can have a couple more good weeks, we’ll be there. Pocono is a good one. We’ll keep doing it, but today was definitely a testament to our speed and this team. We keep fighting through it. We never gave up. We did what we needed to do and fixed the damaged when we needed to and got a good finish out of it.”
Expressing a few weeks ago in Daytona that the goal was to bank 30 points a race in an effort to make the playoffs, Jones earned 43 points last weekend in Kentucky and in New Hampshire. He also went from 16th in the standings with a two-point advantage to jumping to 14th in the standings.