Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is starting to look like a playoff contender after finishing second at Bristol.
The finish was his best of the year and even moved him from 17th to 14th in the points standings. This is what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had to say after the race.
"Coming into the Bristol dirt event, I felt like I was going to be comfortable on the racetrack. But I feel like these are the best drivers out there. They were going to adapt, their teams were going to adapt, bring good race cars as well."
"I didn’t want to put too much emphasis on, 'Hey, we have to go win.' We methodically worked our way through this race of getting our race car better, not freaking out early in the race, knowing that the track conditions were going to change, and probably come around the balance of our race car. We did that. Got our first top five and top 10 of the year. Trying to keep that momentum going into an off weekend and start back fresh when we get going again.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started his afternoon in 13th place, but managed to move up to 9th by the end of the first stage. This gave him a stage point, which could help him make the playoffs this season. He then improved to sixth by the end of the second stage, earning him another four points to his total.
Finally, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. broke through and finished second after holding off Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and William Bryon in a two-lap shootout. That in itself should be a testament to what this man can still do behind the wheel, and why he is a playoff contender.
While Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will still have to steadily improve his mile-and-a-half program and their restrictor-plate efforts, the gains they are making look very promising. Furthermore, with a 16-car playoff field and seven different winners this season, it could all come down to points, which is what he gained a lot of today.
In the end, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty Racing are slowly becoming playoff contenders. They are improving at the mile-and-half-tracks, displaying decent consistency, and are showing up when it matters.
Whether that results in a playoff spot or not remains to be seen, but he is definitely now in the conversation.