Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is hoping to climb back his way into the Top 10 position at Martinsville this weekend after experiencing an inconsistent season so far into 2018.
He’s got a good race car where he qualified well inside the Top 10 for the first three Cup Series races.
But his race day form would need room for improvement after having finished in and around the Top 20 mark.
Recap of Fontana
Stenhouse struggled to gain maximum speed in turns three and four for the whole time where he tried to rectify a handling problem when he visited pit road twice.
But that problem persists when he lost a few positions before he finished P22 in the first segment.
In Stage 2, He had to make an urgent pit stop under green for a loose wheel that pushed him back two laps down.
Thankfully, Stenhouse returned on the lead lap when he passed race leader, and eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. before the caution came out on Lap 107.
Stenhouse stayed out on track before moving up eight positions to finish 20th at the end of stage 2.
However, the car still struggled to find the balance to challenge the front end of the field where he managed to hold on his stiffed handling issue by finishing P18 at the end of the Auto Club 400.
Recap of Stenhouse’s last year’s run in Martinsville
Stenhouse ran very well when he finished 10th during both Martinsville races in March and October last year.
He has two Top 10 finishes to his name boasting a percentage of 20%.
His average start is 23.8 and finish are 28.2.
If Stenhouse can show his best form this Sunday proving he can strike a third Top 10 finish at this track, then this could create the spark he’s after this year.
His 2018 season so far.
- Five Races
- 1296 of 1311 laps completed, 98.9%
- 11 laps led
- Average Start: 13.4 and Finish are: 20
- Results: 29th (Daytona 500), 16th (Atlanta), 14th (Las Vegas), 23rd (Phoenix) and 18th (Fontana).
- DNF: One, Crash (Daytona 500)
- He’s currently ranked 17th in the 2018 Cup Drivers’ Standings with 100 points.
It’s difficult to make an impact immediately into the new season after having a long three months off the race track.
The three week West Coast tour has concluded, what Stenhouse needs to do now is that he will make the most out of his weekend & finish with the best result possible on Sunday.
Then as the next few races come by, Stenhouse can start to aggressively challenge within the front end of the field and take his No.17 Ford Fusion to victory lane.
He’s done that before at Talladega on his first ever Cup win in May as well as the prestigious Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July.
When Stenhouse came into Martinsville 12 months ago, he’s at 24th place with 86 points.
Fast forward to today, he’s 17th in the 2018 Drivers’ standings with 100 points and is only one place away from the Playoff bubble.
So as long as he finishes inside the Top 16 by Indianapolis or can win a regular season race beforehand, then he’s in a secure position to prepare for the postseason playoffs from Las Vegas.
The No.17 team still working hard all day, every day
Remember, Stenhouse, his crew chief Brian Pattie and the No.17 pit crew are working hard all week to start and end that process step by step.
Just focus on one race at a time and evaluate what’s going on with the car.
If the No.17 Ford Fusion is going to be real quick on race day, then the results will start to flow for Stenhouse as long as he’s not getting caught up in a wreck or a mechanical issue.
You can see Stenhouse behind the scenes on the race track when the Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500.
Make sure you tune in this Sunday at 2 PM ET LIVE on FS1, Motor Racing Network and SIRIUS radio channel 90.
Image and Statistics: Racing Reference.
At last but not least…
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