Stenhouse Jr. Hopes A Solid Finish At Bristol Will Lead To Momentum For Darlingtonby Hunter Thomas August 12, 2019 0 comments
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a rough day at Michigan on Sunday, but he’s looking forward to visiting Bristol and building momentum towards the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
During the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Stenhouse blew a left rear tire in Turn 4 to bring out the sixth and final caution of the afternoon. AS a result, the driver of the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Fastenal Ford had to settle for a disappointing 28th-place finish.
“I told the guys that I didn’t feel like we had the car capable of winning at Michigan, but I wanted to have a good Michigan to carry that momentum into Bristol,” Stenhouse said.
With the Irish Hills in the rearview mirror, Stenhouse and his team now look towards the mountains of Tennessee for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. Stenhouse’s past two finishes at Bristol haven’t been great, but he has finished inside the top-10 in six of his 13 starts at the track. In fact, he has finished runner-up on two occasions.
“We’ve had some good finishes,” Stenhouse said about Bristol. “It has been a racetrack that has been very good to us, and we’re looking forward to finishing maybe one spot better. We finished second there a few times, and we’re ready to get that first win there for sure.”
If Stenhouse and his team can capitalize and capture a solid finish at Bristol, then he will have some momentum heading into Darlington, where he finished 12th in last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500. The No. 17 team’s 1.5-mile program has been pretty stout this season. He has an average finish of about 11th on the 1.5-mile tracks so far this season between Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas, Charlotte, Chicagoland and Kentucky. While Darlington is a little shorter and a one-of-a-kind design, the confidence in the team’s equipment and speed is certainly there for Stenhouse.
“Going into Darlington, hopefully we’re coming off a win at Bristol first,” Stenhouse said. “We feel very confident going into Bristol, and if you can take that momentum into the (Bojangles’) Southern 500, I think that would be huge. Darlington is a place that I’ve loved to race at, but we haven’t actually had the best of luck and just haven’t been that great at. We’ve been fast, just our races haven’t played out the way I feel like they should have. So, for us, I feel very confident going to Darlington the way our mile-and-a-half program has been this year. Even though Darlington is unique, and it is its own kind of racetrack, it’s not identical to Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta or any other place we go. It’s a fun racetrack, and we feel good going into it.”
Stenhouse is a driver who takes interest in the sport’s history, so he’s certainly a fan of Darlington Raceway’s throwback weekend. His favorite part is seeing all of the throwback scheme, because they typically feature more simpler designs. Stenhouse’s team hasn’t announced a throwback scheme just yet for the 70th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500, but they have participated every year of the campaign so far.
“It has been pretty cool since the very first year,” Stenhouse said about the throwback weekend. “Just seeing the teams, drivers and the fans get behind it, you know, wearing the throwback stuff and the cars are throwback. Its just a really cool weekend. For me, we’ve gotten to run some pretty cool cars, and that’s always the fun part of it I feel like. Watching the broadcast, watching practices and seeing pictures just really takes you back, and all it is, is a paint scheme. For me, I’m a really big fan of old school paint schemes, because they’re simpler, and I feel like those are the best-looking race cars.”
After touring the Northeast for the past three race weekends, Stenhouse is excited to get back to the racetracks that are within driving distance.
“It’s nice being able to drive to the racetrack,” Stenhouse said. “It kind of takes you back to racing dirt cars, so I do feel like that it’s really, really nice to be able to just drive and drive home and not have to board a plane.”
Stenhouse believes that both, Bristol and Darlington will feature great racing, filled with aggressive moves. He’s very confident about his team’s chances at winning at Bristol, and he says that every driver in the sport wants to win at Darlington.
“Hopefully the fans can make it out, and if not, they can tune-in to it on NBCSN,” Stenhouse said. “I feel like it’s going to be a great race. People are going to be aggressive and the same with Darlington. All of us drivers want to win Darlington. It’s another night race, and it’s always fun on Labor Day weekend.”
The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol will broadcast live on NBCSN and the Performance Racing Network at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 17.
The 70th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 will broadcast live on NBCSN and the Motor Racing Network at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 1.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com