TALLADEGA, Ala. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was all over the scoreboard at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His Roush-Fenway Racing team worked all day to salvage a strong finish in the opening race of the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs, and a speeding penalty was threatening to ruin the chance.
Stenhouse had one restart to save his day Sunday, and he picked off about six drivers to squeak out a 13th-place finish.
His reward? Well, Stenhouse is still last in the playoff standings. But the race this weekend is at Talladega Superspeedway and Stenhouse is probably the only driver looking forward to Sunday’s critical race.
Stenhouse scored his first career Cup victory at Talladega in May, and followed it with another win in July at Daytona. He’s won the last two restrictor-plate races of the season, and figures his best shot at making it into the third round of the playoffs is by making it 3 for 3 to land an automatic berth.
“I know we’re going to have a fast car. I’m not really worried about the speed in our car,” said Stenhouse, who is in the playoffs for the first time. “The biggest thing for me is you’ve got to have these things play out exactly right. I feel like the last two played out really well for us. I feel like we’re capable of doing it, but I’m definitely just not counting on it.”
Nope, Stenhouse has to have a backup strategy because there are so many variables in a plate race. It takes luck, skill, precision and being in the right place at the right time.
Talladega for the first three years of this playoff format …read more