Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Paces Pack Racing Practice At Newly Configured Atlantaby Hunter Thomas March 19, 2022 0 comments
HAMPTON, Ga. – Heading into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the newly configured Atlanta Motor Speedway, no one knew what to expect, but during practice that was paced by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the industry saw superspeedway-style pack racing.
Chaotic is the word that was used in post-practice interviews following Saturday’s lone practice session. For the first time ever at the 1.5-mile track, drivers were pack racing, much like you would see at Daytona and Talladega. Even though it was practice, drivers had to experiment with different lanes and see how quickly they could fall back and catch up to the pack. Stenhouse, driver of the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Kroger/SweetLeaf Chevrolet topped the speed chart after running a 29.708-second lap at 186.616 mph. Kyle Busch was second fastest, only 0.036 seconds behind, followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell.
“It seemed kind of chaotic for a practice session,” said Stenhouse. “Obviously we’re all trying to learn as much as we could. We have 500 miles around here; it’s a long time. I think we ran 44 laps or so in that practice. Some guys ran 60-something laps, which I feel like you never see out of us in practice. So, everybody is just trying to learn.”
While there was pack racing in practice, Stenhouse believes that Sunday’s race could be a little calmer than traditional superspeedway races, because drivers won’t have to worry about losing the draft; however, if there is a wreck up front, then that could be a disaster for everyone who is behind it due to the narrow racing surface.
“I think on one hand, it could be a little calmer because you can lift and not really lose spots and kind of keep your position on track,” Stenhouse said. “Daytona, we were all worried about losing the draft and I don’t think we’re going to be worried about losing the draft here.”
Stenhouse also said, “I think some of the drivers are going to be worn out come Sunday with just how intense and on top of the car you have to be. But I think one mistake, you’re going to wipe out the whole field if it’s at the front. It’ll be kind of crazy to watch this.”
Traditionally during superspeedway races, drivers will pit with each other, and Stenhouse believes the same will be true come Sunday because track position will be so important.
“It’ll be important to still pit with cars so you can go out and run fast laps,” Stenhouse said. “But I think you’ll see cars kind of break up and eventually get back together. Daytona, you kind of stay broken up. Getting to pit road is going to be tough.”
So far in 2022, Stenhouse has one top-10 finish that he captured in the second race of the season at Auto Club Speedway. Stenhouse is known to be a competitive superspeedway racer, and before being involved in a crash during the season-opener at Daytona, he led 16 laps. Stenhouse currently sits 23rd in the standings.
The NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honors QuikTrip 500 will broadcast live on FOX at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Tyler Goodson/TheFourthTurn.com