NASCAR Cup Series
Do Or Die Time For Stenhouse
For the last two weeks, there has been a lot of attention on Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Most of which came in the shadow of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway, a race in which the 30-year-old led a race-high 51 laps, in addition to winning two stages. However, it was his controversial driving, that became the topic of conversation throughout the garage, including complaints from several drivers.
Stenhouse’s biggest critic following the event was Kyle Busch, who in a press conference last Friday at Kentucky Speedway was open about his displeasure with the driver of the No. 17 and even threw shade at the team’s performance saying, “I can’t worry about people that are that far back in the field.”
Later that day after qualifying 14th, Stenhouse confronted Busch and offered the media his rebuttal, in which he essentially admitted that he and his team are not on the same level as the No. 18.
His actions here are something to be taken issue with.
No, not the fact that the Roush-Fenway driver defended himself; that’s perfectly respectable. It’s just when he chose to do so. He and his team had just failed to make the final round of qualifying for the sixth time in the last eight races and his focus seemed to only be on a driver who spoke poorly of him.
Again, it’s not a surprise he was upset by the comments, but there were bigger things to worry about, especially for a guy who at the time was 19 points outside the playoffs and just earned a starting position that didn’t do much to help the cause.
Now, Stenhouse would end the weekend on the fortunate side of things, as a disappointing 26th place finish was countered by an even worse day by the driver who holds the last playoff position, Alex Bowman, who finished 39th Saturday.
However, just because he was able to gain ground does not take away the fact that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in a short amount of time.
This is a team that hasn’t seen a top-10 since the Coca-Cola 600 in May, seven races ago. That is not a stat line of someone who can contend for a championship and because of it, they are stuck in their current situation.
A year ago, Stenhouse and his team showed they could contend. Making it into the second round of the playoffs and threatened to go deeper after leading laps at the fall Talladega race before ultimately coming up short.
It is now time for the No. 17 team to prove themselves again and, it’s going to have to come without a restrictor plate win.
You want to send a message to Busch and the rest of the field?
Go out and bring your A-game during these final regular season races, find a way to either win or point your way in and, show them that you are more than just an average team. Doing these things will make more of an impact than any interview will.
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