Well, what do you know? We had a new winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series this week. What’s even more surprising, I don’t think it’ll be the last time we see Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Victory Lane. It does seem like an eternity since the fresh faced kid took the XFINITY Series by storm. Funny thing though, he only came up to the Cup level in 2013…he really hasn’t been around all that long.
However, that does say something about our expectations about our rookie classes. If you don’t rack up a win in the first 70 races, it’s a little like saying you’ll never grab the checkers. It took Stenhouse 158 trips with the big boys to find his magic. I admit to writing him off in my books sometime by the end of 2014. He just didn’t seem to have that mythical mojo.
Maybe success in this series is just magic. Have we considered that possibility?
When we consider that Roush has been missing out on their fair share of trophies pretty much since Stenhouse came on board, I was actually willing to go with the scenario that car design and engineering had more to do with this particular win.
After all, you may have noticed that Ford received a rather spectacular clarion of welcome back at Daytona this year, and the manufacturer hasn’t disappointed along the way. The 2017 Fusion has scored five wins in the Cup series. Stewart-Haas Racing even joined forces with the Penske and Roush group creating all sorts of excitement in the garage. And it is paying off. The Fords found the aero, speed, and control that the Toyota crew seemed to monopolize in 2016.
Which then begs the question, was the car the only thing holding Stenhouse back for the past three years?
No, I don’t think so. He has improved his average finish in 2017 over 2016 by more than five places. When the camera is focused on his No. 17, there’s an edginess to his aggressiveness that’s been missing before. His fender is finding the veterans’ more often. He’s willing to make some noise while pushing his way through the crowd. Maybe he didn’t feel like he could actually muscle his way through traffic in the last iteration of the Ford, or maybe improved comfort has fueled his ability to perform.
Whatever the case, the conclusion to Sunday’s Geico 500 was as exciting as you can get, once you got past the rolling demolition derby. I still harbor resentment against the plate tracks, but this particular first win at this monstrous track was anything but a fluke. Stenhouse showed up with the machine to beat, and then went about proving it after a long day on the high banks of Talladega.
Congratulations to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. May you find your way to victory lane again without such a long wait between visits.
Holyshhh….Carl Edwards set a new land speed record for an SUV this week in a heavily modified Toyota Land Cruiser. How modified? They said it had 2000 horses running under the hood. Don’t believe me? Check out this video! https://youtu.be/DmWmE4r3aHw
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