At the site of his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) start at in 2011, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. used a fast Fastenal Ford Mustang to overcome early adversity to earn a strong fifth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway; a career best at the 1.5-mile track.
“I wasn’t real happy about that final caution,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I was hoping it was going to stay green there because we were running down the 18. We had a strong car at Kansas and we built on those lessons tonight.”
“Our car was really good at the end of the race, but if we can get it good at the start we’ll have a chance to earn more stage points. All in all, a great night for the 17 team, a good points night, and we just have to keep this momentum going that we started at Kansas.”
The Olive Branch, Miss. native lined up for the longest race of the season on Memorial Day weekend in the ninth position and patiently maneuvered his patriotic Fastenal Ford up to seventh. After reporting that his Fastenal Ford started out tight but was beginning to trend loose, the two-time Xfinity Series Champion hit pit-road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.
With less than 25 laps remaining in the first 100-lap stage, Stenhouse was running in fourth position before contact with the No. 18 machine sent the Fastenal Ford for a spin. Luckily, the Fastenal Ford only suffered minor hood damage. After another caution was displayed with less than 10 laps remaining in the stage, crew chief Brian Pattie chose to stay out for track positions allowing Stenhouse to take the first green checkered in the 22nd position.
With teams only getting a set allotment of tires for the 400-lap race, Pattie kept Stenhouse out once again during the stage break to gain valuable track position lining up the Fastenal Ford in the ninth position for the remainder of stage two. Stenhouse steadily ran in the top-15 for the remainder of the stage before taking the second green checkered in the 15th positon.
Once the sun went down, the Fastenal Ford came to life. Stenhouse restarted stage three in the 16th position and rocketed his way into the fifth position before the yellow flag was displayed on lap 251. The Roush Fenway Racing driver steadily ran in the top five but the handling turned tight costing him to lose two positions to take the third green checkered in the seventh position but still picked up four valuable stage points.
For the final 100-lap stage, the two-time Cup series winner lined up in the fifth position. Later in the run, the Fastenal Ford was the fastest car on the track and reeling in the leaders but an unwanted caution flag waved setting up a five-lap shootout. With four fresh tires, Stenhouse restarted in the seventh position but bullied his way forward on the wild restart to earn a strong five-place finish.