After starting on the front row for Sunday’s Fold of Honors Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was steadily running in the top-10 before a pit-road speeding penalty forced him to settle with an 18th-place finish.
“Our Little Hugs Ford was really strong today,” Stenhouse said. “I messed up speeding on pit-road and with limited cautions, we weren’t able to get back on the lead lap. I feel bad for my guys because they brought a really fast car and we were still running top-four lap times with 75 laps to go. Overall it was a decent weekend for us though so we will rebound and I look forward to Vegas next weekend.”
After earning his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Atlanta in 2013, the Olive Branch, Mississippi, native barely missed the pole lining the Little Hug Fruit Barrels on the outside pole for the 325-lap race. When the first yellow flag waved for a NASCAR competition caution on lap 35 due to rain overnight, Stenhouse was scored in the third position. Stenhouse brought his Ford to pit-road for four tires and a chassis adjustment for a tight-handling machine.
After restarting sixth, the two-time Xfinity champion worked his way up to fifth before losing a few positions in the closing laps of stage one taking the green checkered flag in the ninth position earning valuable stage points.
After another chassis adjustment during the stage break, the Roush Fenway Racing driver lined up in the seventh position but lost a few positions on the restart due to three and four wide racing. Stenhouse relinquished the 13th position on lap 126 for a scheduled four tire pit-stop but was caught speeding as he hit pit-road resulting in a pass thru penalty which cost him a lap to the leaders. At the conclusion of stage two, Stenhouse was scored in the 26th position.
Stenhouse was scored in the lucky dog positions multiple times in the final stage but it seemed caution flags were always displayed during green flag pit-stops granting other competitors the free pass. When the final green flag waved setting up a 38-lap shootout, Stenhouse restarted right behind the leaders in hopes of a quick caution but the race went green resulting in an 18th-place finish.
Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team is Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 3. Race coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Coverage can also be heard on PRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90.