Ricky Stenhouse Jr. entered Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway riding a wave of momentum. Last week at Dover Motor Speedway, the No. 47 team had its breakout run thus far in 2022, finishing runner-up to Chase Elliott.
Despite Stenhouse‘s track record not being the best at Darlington, he believed his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team could put a solid performance together on Sunday. The weekend, however, didn‘t start off the best as he posted the 26th quickest time in qualifying, though he was 11th in practice.
Despite there being three cautions in the first stage, Stenhouse could gain just one position to 25th when the green and white checkered flag flew. In the second stage, he jumped three additional spots to 20th. But the final stage is where the No. 47 Chevrolet shined, continuously missing the chaos, including a nine-car pileup on lap 262.
The trigger of the big wreck, though, was contact between Stenhouse and Martin Truex Jr., after Kevin Harvick made a three-wide pass on the restart for fourth position. After the race, Stenhouse and Harvick talked to one another about the incident.
Here’s how it went down: pic.twitter.com/QY3v9EHxij
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 8, 2022
“We came out on the bad end of that deal,” Stenhouse said after the race. “Unfortunate, but great battle for our team. We definitely didn‘t have a top 10 in us to start, but we made one out of it.”
Over the final 26 laps to the finish, Stenhouse hung around the top 10, finishing eighth. With his second-place effort at the Monster Mile last week, this is the first time Stenhosue has had consecutive top 10s in three years of competing at JTG Daugherty Racing. Overall, it‘s the first time he‘s had two straight top 10s since the fall of 2018 at Dover and Talladega. It‘s also JTG‘s first time having two such finishes in back-to-back weeks since Ryan Preece did so in the first two races of the 2021 season.
The consensus is that the single-car team is moving in the right direction.
“It was a battle,” Stenhouse said of his race on Sunday. “We definitely weren‘t very good to start and kept making a lot of adjustments and had a really good strategy. I felt like if it would have gone green, we could have had a top five. I still feel like we had the opportunity when it was all said and done.
“You can‘t complain too much about back-to-back top 10s with the way we started the season. We thought we would be a little better here than what we were, but we‘ll take another top 10 and move to Kansas.”
Over the last two races, Stenhouse has leaped four positions in the championship standings, and within seven markers of Ty Dillon in 25th. In his first two years of driving the No. 47 car, he finished a best of 22nd last season.
But even with the recent success, Stenhouse isn‘t sure that the team has righted the ship.
“I wouldn‘t say turned the corner, but we got some finishes,” he added. “We weren‘t a top-10 car today, but circumstances with a crazy race and a lot of people not finishing. That‘s part of it coming to Darlington; I‘ve been one of those guys that didn‘t finish. It‘s a tough racetrack and these cars get really loose after 30 laps.”
The Cup Series heads to Kansas, where Stenhouse doesn‘t have a top-10 finish in 18 starts, but he does have four 11th-place finishes. Should the No. 47 team get a third top-10 result in a row, it would be the first time JTG has done that since 2016 with AJ Allmendinger (Kansas, Talladega and Martinsville). It would be the first time in Stenhouse‘s 341 Cup races that he‘s earned three straight.