Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gambles for 3rd place in Las Vegas

Photo by Rachel Schuoler / Kickin' the Tires

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

At the checkered flag, much of the top-10 finishers were a surprise in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But even through the 267 laps of NASCAR Cup Series racing, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was one driver who spent time out front toward a top-10 finish.

Rolling the dice with pit strategy, Stenhouse and his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet stretched their fuel to grab the lead during green-flag stints while the leaders dove to pit road. On two occasions, Stenhouse was out front, each time hoping for a little luck with a caution flag.

Though it “backfired” on the team’s first attempt, a spin by Chase Elliott with 45 to go solidified Stenhouse with the leaders. And after a two-lap dash to the end, Stenhouse held steady to come home third.

“Brian [Pattie, crew chief] is just really good at calling races,” Stenhouse said of his strategy maker. “We got good track position but stayed out too long and lost that track position. Then, we were fighting all race to get that back up. [Pattie] went long again and it paid off with a caution.”

2020 is the fourth year for the pairing of Stenhouse and Pattie.

The third-place results marked the first top-five finish for JTG at Las Vegas and their first top five outside of Daytona or Talladega since 2016. Additionally, Stenhouse’s 30 laps led made Sunday the first time JTG had led more than 20 laps in consecutive races, after the first-year driver led 24 laps of last week’s Daytona 500.

“This is what we need to do, click off good runs,” he said. “This weekend we learned a lot about how to get this car better. So far, so good. Two weeks. We were fast last week, weren’t bad this week. I know Brian and the boys with tune it up.”

Already matching his top-five number from one year ago with Roush Fenway Racing, Stenhouse was happy to leave Round N. 2 of 2020 with such a result.

“Our Camaro was good, wasn’t perfect by any means, but we know what we need to work on,” he said. “It was good to get a solid run in for everyone at JTG.”

Known for his aggressive style, Stenhouse held his own during the wild restarts throughout the afternoon, including the race-ending shootout.

“[The restarts] were intense,” he said. “We caught that good caution and when we were up front, I thought we were really good. I’m really happy with our effort, got a good run through [Turns] 3, 4 coming to the white, couldn’t clear the [No.] 21 [Matt DiBenedetto]. We fought hard, didn’t give up.

“It was just a green-white-checkered finish, enough cars stayed out behind us to give us that track position. Tires meant a lot, but we made the right call at the end.”

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