With fuel strategy becoming a factor in the final stage, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was one of four cars that topped off on lap 117 having two additional laps of fuel than the leaders. After a late-race caution set up a four- lap shootout, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was battling for position when he was forced into the outside wall causing significant damage forcing him to settle for a 21st-place finish in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Pocono Raceway.
“I think if it would have stayed green there, we would have gotten lucky and probably got a top-10 finish due to having more fuel than the leaders,” Stenhouse said. “It was disappointing to get caught up in an accident with less than five laps but everyone is racing really hard trying to get all they can get.”
After qualifying in the 18th position on Saturday, the Olive Branch, Miss. native lined up in the 14th position as four cars that qualified ahead of him failed pre-race inspection. With stage one going caution free, Stenhouse worked his way inside the top five before hitting pit-road for a scheduled pit-stop. After the pit cycle, Stenhouse took the first green-checkered flag in the 13th position.
Stenhouse was scored in the sixth position when the caution flag was waved just nine laps shy of the end of stage two. With track position being essential, crew chief Brian Pattie chose to stay out lining Stenhouse up in the sixth position for the final five lap shootout but fell to 11th after newer tires prevailed.
Early in the final stage, Stenhouse brought his Ford to pit-road for a loose wheel. Right before the field came to green, Brian Pattie called him down pit-road to top off the fuel in case the race went green to the end. When the caution was displayed on lap 153, Stenhouse was scored in the 19th position.
As most of the leaders stayed out, Stenhouse hit pit-road for two tires and a splash of fuel. On the restart with four laps remaining, the two-time Xfinity champion was battling for position and during the four-wide battle contact was made forcing Stenhouse into the outside wall. After the crew worked feverishly to repair the damage, Stenhouse lined up in the 24th position for the final green white checkered and quickly bullied his way forward picking up three positions in the final laps.
Next up for Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 17 team is the GoBowling at Watkins Glen International on August 4. Race coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. on NBCSN. Coverage can also be heard on MRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90.