Stenhouse Jr. Shines at Phoenix
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 19, 2017 | 7:38 P.M. EST
"We still got a long ways to go. But I think we've made a big improvement from last year, especially the end of last year." (Photo: Robbie Mays)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turned in a top-five run in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver’s fourth-place finish was his first top-10 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since Talladega last fall.
Stenhouse and his team used some strategy late in the race when caution came out to set up a green-white-checkered restart. Rather than pit, Stenhouse remained on track and on the ensuing restart was able to stay in the lead pack to post the finish.
“Yeah, (crew chief) Brian Pattie made a lot of adjustments overnight,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “We weren't that great during practice as far as speed goes. But I felt our car had good long run speed. It proved that today. I was glad we were able to get some long runs there. Actually, it wasn't as bad on restarts as I thought we were going to be.“There at the end, I thought Brian wanted us to stay out when the caution came out. I kind of second guessed him. Then when I told him everybody was coming down pit road, I already kind of committed to stay out and went with his gut instinct, and paid off.”
It was especially sweet for Stenhouse Jr. after last week’s Las Vegas race, where he was forced to a back-up car because of a crash earlier in the weekend.
“Yeah, you know, there in Vegas, I mean, our car was really loose,” he said. “We got really loose into turn one, had to bring out the backup car. But you know what, the good thing was is I thought our backup car was just as good as our primary car.
“That's what the guys have been preaching at the shop, is to make sure that we're not only bringing the best cars to the racetrack that we can, but our backups are just as good. Because you got to be prepared for anything in this sport.”
Early this season, Stenhouse Jr. has seen gains from the hard work the Roush organization put in during the off-season to improve its performance. He’s hoping the Phoenix effort will be a foundation to build on going forward.
“Definitely seen a difference in the quality,” he said. “We still got a long ways to go. But I think we've made a big improvement from last year, especially the end of last year.”
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