After having to pit for a loose wheel under green flag conditions that cost him to go two laps down to the leaders, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcame adversity to earn an 18th- place finish in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Auto Club Speedway.
”We really struggled with the balance of our Ford this weekend,” Stenhouse said. “We were able to make the most of our day and salvage an 18th-place finish. It’s definitely not the performance we wanted so we will go back and learn from today. It’s still early in the season. We have a lot more racing left and everyone at Roush Fenway is working really hard.”
The two-time XFINITY champion started the 200-lap race in the 16th position where he maintained until the handling turned to the tight side costing him to lose a few positions. After making adjustments during two pit-stops, the handling was still not to Stenhouse’s liking forcing him to take the green-checkered flag ending stage one in the 22nd position.
Just shy of half way, the Olive Branch, Miss. native had to make an unscheduled pit-stop for a loose wheel costing him to go two laps down to the leaders. With four new tires, Stenhouse was able to get one lap back when he passed the leader Truex before a much needed caution waved on lap 107. With the leaders pitting, crew chief Brian Pattie radioed the Roush Fenway Racing driver to stay out and take the wave around. Back on the lead lap with seven laps remaining in stage two, Stenhouse lined up in the 28th position gaining eight position by the time the green checkered waved ending the stage.
With only one caution flag in the final stage and still battling an ill-handling machine, Stenhouse Jr. settled with an 18th-place finish at the two-mile track.
Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team is the STP500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, March 25. Race coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. Coverage can also be heard on MRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90.