Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Holds Off The Field In NASCAR Overtime To Win At Daytona

by July 2, 2017 0 comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.– In a thrilling series of events at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was able to capture his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in NASCAR Overtime during the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola.

Stenhouse Jr. has now driven his Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford to Victory Lane in two out of the three restrictor plate races so far in the 2017 season. He now joins Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson as the only driver who have multiple victories this year.

“Well, I feel like for me, we’ve had good finishes at speedways,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I feel like we lucked into a few of them, but now that we’re paying a lot of attention to every single part of our company, making sure that the speedway cars are good, the short tracks, the mile‑and‑a‑halfs, we’re really focused in on every aspect of the sport and trying to make sure that we’re not leaving any stone unturned.”

After a late caution, the field lined up for NASCAR Overtime, where David Ragan lined up on the inside with Ty Dillon next to him on the front row. Stenhouse Jr. lined up behind Ragan in third. When the green flag dropped for the final restart, Stenhouse Jr. was able to push Ragan in a rally to make his way to the front.

“I was glad that we got into third before that last caution because for whatever reason, my car wanted to be on the bottom,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “At Daytona, Talladega, I’ve always felt like my car wants to be on the top side of the racetrack, and it just seemed I could do better work there, but last couple speedway races I’ve been able to get the job done on the bottom with the car that they’ve prepared for us.”

Stenhouse Jr. made the pass for the lead, battling through the final two laps of the event to hold on to the top spot in the field. Once the field crossed the Overtime Line, it was up to Stenhouse Jr. to remain in the lead and take the checkered flag.

“Kind of like we gave up the lead to the 13 (Ty Dillon),” Stenhouse Jr. said. “David just didn’t get down quick enough.  It looks ‑‑ kind of looks are deceiving when you’re looking in your mirror you can really see the cars on the outside really good and it’s tough to see the cars on the inside. We just got a run at the right time and he moved up at the perfect time for us to get to the inside and keep the lead from there.

“I was pretty surprised with our damage that we were able to stay out front that last lap and a half the way we did.”

The front of the field shuffled as the final lap came to a close, not allowing for any certainty as to who would capture what finishing position. Stenhouse ultimately earned the victory with Clint Bowyer claiming second, Paul Menard in third, Michael McDowell in fourth and Ryan Newman finishing in fifth.

Rounding out the top-10 was David Ragan, Brendan Gaughan, AJ Allmendinger, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

During the race, there was plenty of action as 16 drivers traded the lead on 33 occasions. Throughout the night, there were also a record of 14 cautions.

The Coke Zero 400 presented heavy emotion for many fans, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was making his final start at Daytona International Speedway as a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver. Earnhardt has not counted out future starts if the right opportunities present themselves.

Earnhardt Jr. started on the pole, but after making contact with the wall after what he believed was a tire going down. As Earnhardt Jr. limped his car around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, the race stayed green; however, he was able to rally back from two laps down before entering the top-10 once again.

“That first deal we brushed the wall a couple of laps earlier and I thought everything was okay,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I came through the tri-oval and I had a right front going down and it was trying to spin out, so I was trying to lift, but there was really nothing I could do because there were so many guys behind me. We got into (turn) one and hit the wall. But the guys worked on the car; we got our laps back and was about to have some more fun – get back up in there and mix it up.”

Just as Earnhardt Jr.’s luck began turning around, he was involved in an accident on lap 107, when Kevin Harvick blew a tire in Turn 2. Harvick’s car spun backwards and into Earnhardt Jr. The accident officially took him out of contention when he had to drive his car to the garage for irreparable damage under the NASCAR crash damage policy. He ended his race with a 32nd-place finish.

“Oh yes, as soon as we got our lap back, I knew anything was possible,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We were just kind of drafting right back up there and I think the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) got a flat. I had nowhere to go, but it was fun. We had a pretty strong car. We had some gremlins in there; I’m not sure what was going on with that, but we had the toe-in messed up.”

The Coke Zero 400 showed all of the drivers on edge throughout the entire event. The Big One, the name for the large, notable accidents at restrictor plate tracks that takes out significant numbers of cars, first occurred on lap 72, involving 10 cars. As the field rounded Turn 2, Kyle Busch who was on the high side, got loose and spun into Joey Logano. The chain reaction blocked the track and eight other drivers piled in.

Martin Truex Jr. whose night was ended by the crash said, “I just tried to slow down, but you know you get hit from behind, you hit the guy in front of you – there’s nothing you can do. When you’re going 190 something and everybody stops in front of you, it’s kind of hard to do anything. Unfortunate night for sure for our Bass Pro Toyota. This July race, man, I don’t think I’ve finished it in like five years. It’s just – it’s been a tough one every time. Every time we feel like we’re doing something okay we get in a big wreck, so it’s been a tough one for sure but rebound and go to Kentucky and hopefully go for some more wins.”

The second Big One occurred on lap 154 when Kyle Larson moved up the track and sent his car flying over the hood of Stenhouse Jr.’s car. Larson’s car tosses around in the air before it landed on all-four tires with the field scattering around him. He collected Ryan Blaney and both sustained major damage.

“I was just up front there and doing what I could to stay up front,” Larson said. “The 38 (David Ragan) got to my inside and I saw that in my mirror and I kind of felt it a little bit because you can feel the air. I was just trying to leave him a little bit of room and I just moved up too high and ran across Ricky’s (Stenhouse, Jr.) nose and I hate that I caused that wreck and I feel pretty bad about.”

Kurt Busch went sailing into the outside wall, taking a hard, head-on impact and leaving his car severely wounded. Kurt Busch’s impact with the outside retaining wall was one of the hardest impacts of the race. Others in the field scattered through the grass, including Danica Patrick, who appeared to make it through with nothing more than damage from the grass, but once she came to a stop on pit road, a fire broke out from her car and had to be extinguished by the nearby safety crew, ending her race. There were six cars involved in the accident that brought the red flag out for 8 minutes and 41 seconds.

Although his night ended early, Kyle Larson leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings by 18 points over Martin Truex Jr.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races under the lights once again next weekend when the series visits Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday, July 8. Live coverage will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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