Bristol Motor Speedway might be just what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. needs to turn around a frustrating start to his season.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver has struggled through the first seven races of the campaign, which has included a number of practice or qualifying incidents forcing Stenhouse Jr. to back-up cars.
Entering Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Stenhouse is 22nd in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point standings still looking for his first top 10 of the season.
In last week’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Stenhouse looked like he might get things headed in the right direction when he was charging his way through the field. However that all ended when he was sidelined by a mechanical problem and eliminated from the race.
He’s disappointed with the ultimate outcome but believes there are positives to take away from TMS.
“Texas was a good race for us last year and all the numbers and things that we look at we thought our benchmark was probably the same as it was last year,” Stenhouse said. “It wasn’t our performance that was any better than last year, but it was nice because it was a step up from the mile-and-a-half racetracks that we’ve had so far this year.
“I was hoping I was gonna have a good finish and a good run coming into Bristol. All of the guys that we were kind of racing for that 16th, 15th position in points all had issues and I thought we were sitting there looking really nice, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. We are at one of my favorite race tracks now, so that’s good.”
Stenhouse has reason for optimism coming to Bristol based on his past experience at the Tennessee short track. In his ten Cup starts, Stenhouse has scored three top-five and four top-10 finishes and has an average finishing position of 10.8.
After a punctured tire sent his Ford into the outside wall on lap 200 of last summer’s Bristol night race, Stenhouse Jr. overcame that adversity to earn a 14th-place finish.
He believes there’s much to build on after that performance for a stronger run this weekend.
“Our cars, even at short tracks, you’ve got dominant cars and track position means a lot,” Stenhouse said about the keys to Bristol. “You have a handful of guys that can go to the back at a short track and run up through the field pretty quick, but you don’t have many of those so you kind of ride in line where your speed is.”