LAS VEGAS, NV — What a start to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season that its been for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. His No. 47 Chevrolet won the pole for last weekend’s season opening Daytona 500. Stenhouse, was a factor all race long in leading the third most laps (24) of the race and if not for a questionable penalty with 50 laps-to-go, he could have been the one celebrating in victory lane on Monday evening instead.
Then, in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Stenhouse’s car was good enough to be in contention on the lead lap. Factor that with his crew chief’s aggressive strategy and you get a third place result for them in the second race of the season.
“Brian (crew chief Brian Pattie) is just really good at calling races, and he apologized for that one (bad pit call),” Stenhouse Jr. said following his second straight top six finishes in the spring Vegas race. “That one backfired on us that second run. We got good track position, and then we stayed out a little too long and gave up that track position.
“So then we were fighting kind of all race to get it back up, and he went long again, and it paid off with the caution. Our Kroger Camaro was good. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we know what we need to work on now, and it was cool to get a good solid run in this Camaro for everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing. Got to thank Hungry Jack, NOS Energy Drink and everybody that works on this car. So far so good. Two weeks, we’ve been fast this week, we weren’t bad this week, and we know what we need to work on, and I know Brian and the boys will tune it up.”
What Stenhouse is referring to is them staying on too long on their second stint. He took over the lead on Lap 123 and would stay out much longer than everyone else in hopes he’d catch a lucky caution. Unfortunately, he never got one and by time he pit, most of the cars that he pinned a lap down had already unlapped themselves. It cost them track position.
Stenhouse, led 22 of 23 laps there, but was marred in the back again. Luckily for them, when a lot of cars hit pit lane on the final stop under caution inside of five to go, they stayed out. The JTG Daugherty Racing driver restarted up front and would hold on for a top five finish.