Restart the difference as Stenhouse wins NNS
FORT WORTH, Texas — Roush Fenway Racing doesn't just
dominate Texas Motor Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. continued the RFR roll in the Nationwide Series by pulling
away on the final restart of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 to win the fourth consecutive
Nationwide race for Roush Fenway at the track and ninth overall.
Stenhouse dominated the race early but a bad tire change on a pit stop cost him
track position. Stenhouse, driving the No. 6 Pure Michigan Ford, moved his way
back to the lead before the fifth and final caution.
Stenhouse, who has struggled with restarts, started the final on alongside
polesitter Paul Menard. Stenhouse caught a break when Denny Hamlin tried to
make it three wide. That shuffled Menard back, and once Stenhouse cleared
Hamlin the No. 6 couldn’t be caught. Stenhouse ended up beating Menard to the
start-finish line by 1.434 seconds.
“That last restart, it was crazy,” said Stenhouse, who is the defending series
champion. “I think I spent the whole five laps we had under caution just
praying for a good restart. Everything worked out for us. It was fun racing
those guys. I had to drive it into Turn 3 wide open. Denny was on the left rear
of us and got us a little loose, but we managed to hang on.”
Stenhouse said he struggled with the car being both loose and tight throughout
the race and was hoping for a change on his final pit stop. Crew chief Mike
Kelley decided to make no changes and that move paid off.
Kasey Kahne finished third with Hamlin fourth and Austin Dillon fifth.
The victory, which was Stenhouse’s first at the track and his second of the
season, was big for him in points, too, as series leader Elliott Sadler finished
12th. That enabled Stenhouse to cut Sadler’s lead from 18 points to four.
Menard, who led a race-high 100 laps, felt like he let the race get away from
“I kept up with Ricky pretty good,” said Menard on the final restart. “We both
spun our tires a little bit. I was close to beating him to the line, but the 18
(Hamlin) jumped outside us. As soon as you get in the middle on a restart you
lose all your momentum. Ricky was really fast all race and whoever could get
out front between the two of us would probably have won the race.”
While TMS has been a tough track for some teams, that’s not the case for Roush
Fenway. In addition to the four consecutive wins in the Nationwide Series, RFR
cars have won eight times in the Sprint Cup Series and will have two of the top
three qualifiers for Saturday’s Samsung Mobile 500.
“God bless Texas,” Jack Roush said. “Texas has been really good to us. The mile
and half racetrack at Texas here is configured very well for the understanding
our crew chiefs have and our engineers have.”
There were just five cautions in the race, which also had a red flag that
lasted just over five minutes because a faulty fused caused a section of lights
in Turn 3 to go out.
Danica Patrick finished eighth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 14th. Kurt Busch, who
was driving for his brother Kyle for the first time, had engine problems and