There was a great deal of attention on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway and it wasn’t all positive.
The defending race winner had one of the fastest cars of the night and proved it by winning the first two stages of the race. But that was the good news for Stenhouse Jr.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver was in the middle of two of the race’s biggest accidents and several of his competitors squarely put the blame on Stenhouse Jr. for the carnage.
“The 17 (Stenhouse Jr.) turned the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and then that was it,” said Denny Hamlin of the first melee that involved nearly half the field. “Once cars get sideways on the backstretch, everyone just battles to try to get through the wreck. You know most of the strong contenders in front, they got taken out in that one, so we’re going to have a crapshoot from here on out.”
Stenhouse was also the catalyst for another huge accident a few laps later when he got tangled with William Byron and Kyle Busch.
“Disappointing to get crashed out by the same guy that caused the first crash,” Busch said.
“You always come to Daytona waiting to crash and figure out when or where and hope you can walk away from it. That’s really frustrating and disappointing to have to race these races like that on the fence or line of when are you going to wreck.”
Stenhouse Jr. didn’t come out of the night unscathed. He was involved in two more incidents later in the race including a cut tire that eventually took him from contention with damage to his Ford.
After the race, Stenhouse Jr. faced the music and addressed the eventful night.
“It’s aggressive speedway racing,” Stenhouse said to a group of reporters. “We needed to win to get in the playoffs, so it is what it is.
“Winning two stages was nice, but obviously we wanted to win at the end and it’s a bummer we basically crashed all of our teammates out of it. I was frustrated with myself causing crashes like that. You don’t ever really want to do that.”