Following a disappointing qualifying run, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started from the 25th spot.
In the first 50 laps, his No.17 Ford Fusion ran fine having set lap times that are similar to the Top 5 challengers in 22nd.
However, Stenhouse found himself loose with a lack of rear grip after his first stop.
It hurt so much momentum trying to build an early build towards the Top 15 as he finished 27th in Stage 1.
On his 2nd stop during the stage break, the No.17 crew chose to take the wedge rather than air pressure adjustment.
From there, his run had much improved this time around in 21st by the time Joey Gase lost control on Lap 127.
At the next restart, Stenhouse’s able to get by a few cars up to 16th.
But a bit later towards the end of the run, he’s back to going too loose down in 18th.
With 31 to go, his crew members treated the No.17 car further with the wedge adjustment.
In return, there’s no positive feedback made as he finished this installment in 17th.
Stenhouse restarted the final stage in 18th having remained there for some time where’s still loose in.
Even after he pitted under green on Lap 249, the strengthening of the wedge adjustment didn’t help Stenhouse that much as the problems persist decidedly worse.
Although, the last three cautions did make a big difference regarding his game.
Having pitted with 46 to go during the first caution, Stenhouse stayed out towards the final two yellows before he’s able to pass several cars and finish the Southern 500 in 12th place.
Stenhouse’s 2018 Season So Far.
- 25 Starts
- 6561 of 7029 Laps Completed, 99%
- 121 Laps Led
- Highest Starting Spot & Finish: 4th, April 2018 in Bristol
- Two Top 5, 8%
- Three Top 10 finishes, 12%
- Average Start: 14.7 & Finish: 18.9
- DNF: Two, Crash (Daytona 500) & Suspension (Texas)
- He currently sits 16th in the Drivers’ Standings with 518 Points.
- 29th, Daytona 500
- 16th, Atlanta
- 14th, Las Vegas
- 23rd, Phoenix
- 18th, Fontana
- 37th, Martinsville
- 25th, Texas
- 4th, Bristol
- 23rd, Richmond
- 5th, Talladega
- 15th, Dover
- 11th, Kansas
- 10th, Charlotte
- 14th, Pocono
- 29th, Michigan
- 18th, Sonoma
- 16th, Chicago
- 26th, Daytona 2
- 30th, New Hampshire
- 22nd, Pocono
- 16th, Watkins Glen
- 18th, Michigan 2
- 24th, Bristol 2
- 12th, Darlington
Fantastic work from Stenhouse and the No.17 Roush Fenway crew on getting the job done for a very long night in the office.
The late cautions did save him where the momentum has much improved at restarts.
Hence, some of the times he experienced problem free earlier on has helped Stenhouse finish closer to the Top 10.
If there were another quickie yellow towards Overtime, then Stenhouse would’ve achieved even further in the Top 7.
It’s the first time that Stenhouse reached the Top 15 since his P14 Pocono back during the first week of June.
And it’s his best finish in 12th out of six starts at Darlington smashing his previous run of 18th back in 2013 & 2016.
At least, this race has helped him stay in the game when it comes to his Playoffs contention.
All he has to do is win or see Alex Bowman perform worse at Indianapolis this Sunday and Stenhouse’s in by Las Vegas.
He needs to keep faith with the No.17 Ford Fusion for much as possible every race weekend.
It has to be from start to finish because some of the time he’s gone very loose plus not enough grip to support maximum speed and match lap times that are similar to the front-runners.
That’s one of the weaknesses Stenhouse has to work on having lost a couple of spots plus the lucky dog at the end of Stage 2.
For now, Stenhouse will enjoy a well-earned rest this Labor Day Monday.
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