Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty Racing started the season doing what they set out to by knocking down consistent top-20 finishes and minimizing their mistakes.
By putting themselves in the best position to capitalize at the end of races and pumping up their average finish, Stenhouse felt like they’d have an opportunity to make the playoffs on points. Entering Memorial Day Weekend, Stenhouse continues to hover around the playoff bubble. He is 19th in the standings, 53 points out of 16th place.
The last few weeks have been rough, though. Stenhouse finished outside the top 30 at both Talladega and Kansas and admitted his No. 47 team “missed it” at Darlington when they finished 20th.
“Got to Dover and felt like we had a really good car and those mistakes I felt like we managed at the beginning of the season, we had too many on pit road there at Dover,” Stenhouse said on The Racing Writer’s Podcast. “But the pit crew guys have been really solid this year and just made a couple mistakes that cost us a better finish than where we finished at Dover. But we were encouraged with the speed that we had at Dover relative to the last two ovals that we were at.
“So, we’re doing all the things that we feel like we can do, and we still have some good racetracks coming up for us. Some that are unknown like COTA (last weekend), but we’re in the picture, and that’s all you can ask for right now.”
Stenhouse has not been a part of the postseason since 2017, when he won two races while driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Like his fellow competitors, Stenhouse and his JTG team came into a new season intending to make the playoffs and believe they should be in the conversation as the summer push begins.
“We felt like looking at last year we had speed to make the playoffs, we just didn’t put anything together to maximize points and be consistent,” said Stenhouse. “We showed at the beginning of the season that the first eight, nine races, if we’re consistent with the speed that we have, we should be able to make the playoffs. We definitely had a rough few weeks. I feel like Darlington, we semi-stopped the bleeding, and as far as the speed in the race car, I felt like we stopped the bleeding (at Dover); we felt confident with the speed in our race car.
“So hopefully now we can focus back on making sure we don’t mistakes, the details that are going to get those consistent top 15 finishes like we had earlier in the season. If we do that from here on out, I feel like we’ll be all over, and if we don’t make it, it’s all about being better than we were last year, and so far, I think we’re definitely better than where we were last year.”