Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been looking forward to seeing what he and JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro can achieve on the NASCAR Cup Series’ run of one-and-a-half-mile tracks. Now the time has come to find out.
“I’m biting my nails and ready to go for these mile-and-a-half racetracks,” said Stenhouse. While the 30th-place result Stenhouse took-on the first of these tracks at Kansas Speedway didn’t exactly light a match to the racing world, Stenhouse had showed a lot more pace than the result showed.
Next on the list is Sunday’s AutoTrader Echopark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Having qualified 21st, Stenhouse thinks he has something to build further on tomorrow.
“Texas is a very good track for us,” said Stenhouse. “We were fast here at the All-Star Race earlier this year. We were a little conservative today on out setup and air pressure and stuff for practice. This track is super-loose, man. It’s so hot out here this weekend. It’s like 97 degrees, so the track surface is super-hot and the cars are sliding around a lot. We’re just looking for as much grip as we can get built into our race car. We had a really good run at Kansas a couple of weeks ago. We were running second and blew a tire there. We’ve just really been trying to focus on making sure we have fast cars and on keeping the correct air pressure in the tires.
“We’ve got decent speed for how loose the car is, so we think if we can get it a little bit better, we’ll have something to race them with tomorrow.”
A single-car team that has scratched and clawed for every one of the five top-10 finishes it has accumulated thus far this Cup season, Stenhouse has been encouraged by the team’s consistency but admits, “we are just trying not to beat ourselves.”
“At Kansas we had a really, really good car that we felt like we could go win with, but we got a little too aggressive with the aur pressure and crossed that line where we hurt the tires. We have to stop things like that. We’ve been doing better at things like not speeding on pit road and not having those mental errors and mistakes tat take us out of the race.
“It’s now getting down to crunch time as far as the end of the season goes. We want to make sure we continue on with what we are doing and we end on this strong note so when we finish this year, we want to carry that momentum into the off-season. It’s a boutique race team. That’s what I call it. Everybody is tight knit. We don’t have a ton of people working on our cars, but we have really good ones. We’re still just trying to gather all the information that we can so that we can really study hard this off-season and be ready to rip next year.”
Stenhouse might be at its center, but he knows he’s just one part in taking JTG Daughter where he, and they, want to go.
“I definitely can’t do it on my own. You know, there are definitely times when I’m sure my team wants me to do better and there are definitely times I want them to do better,” he mused. “Both sides know that we’re all giving it our best and that’s really all you can ask for. I want me guys to make better decisions, but we need a little bit more information to make better decisions like some of the other teams have. I feel like my guys are doing a good job with what they’ve got and we’re going to continue to gain on it.”
After Texas, the NASCAR Cup contingent heads east for Talladega and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL races. For both radically different races, Stenhouse is looking to put an exclamation mark on the No. 47’s racing season.
“Daytona, our last speedway race, I felt like we had one of the better cars and were running up front,” Stenhouse noted. “We ended up in a wreck, but we made it back into the top 10 and were going to battle for the win and then the rains came and really destroyed a lot of race cars. I’m looking forward to getting back to Talladega and also looking forward to Las Vegas. That’s my birthday weekend. I’ll get to race on my birthday, which will be really cool and really special. It would be cool to add my name to the list of people that have won on their birthdays. That’s out goal going there.
“The road course at Charlotte should also be good for us. We tested there this off-season and it felt like we got a good handle on what we needed from there. It’s a tricky little place. It’s not a big road course and it’s not suer-fast, but it’s definitely tricky. We’ve got our work cut out for us there. I’m looking forward to the next three or four races coming up here. We just tested at Homestead this past week and I feel like we had a real good test. Vegas, we had a really good run going there in the spring. We had a really good race car and it has been a good track for us.
“The ones that we’ve got to get a little bit better at are Martinsville and Phoenix. The short tracks this year are kind of where we’ve lacked in some speed and some handling. We’re going to continue to work on that and see if we can’t get those better before the end of the season.”
Through the ups and downs, though, Stenhouse sees the team’s spirit on an upward climb.
“We’re doing good. Like I said, we’ve got a good group of guys that we’ve got to battle with every week,” he said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating when you’re not getting the results that you want, but we keep showing up for the battle and we keep fighting.”