The Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway came to an end on Monday, May 2, after rainfall forced officials to postpone the final 322 laps. Chase Elliott maintained his spot atop the standings with a win, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gained some much-needed momentum at The Monster Mile.
The driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro crossed the finish line second overall for his best finish of the 2022 Cup Series season. He kept his stock car clean and secured 41 total points after entering the race 31st overall in the championship standings. This finish was not enough to boost him into playoff contention, but Stenhouse believes that it will help him turn his season around.
“Man, it’s been a rough start to the season. Our short track program has been off,” Stenhouse told FOX Sports after exiting his stock car. “All our other good races that we’ve had good runs going, something has always happened. Really good to put this all together. We had a brand-new partner, The Frozen Farmer, they’re from 40 minutes down the road. The whole family is here. Really great day for us.
“I felt like we had a car capable of winning. Obviously getting off pit road at different times. My pit crew did a great job keeping us up front all day. This feels good. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum on. The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us.”
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Stenhouse’s next task will be conquering The Lady in Black. He and the other Cup Series drivers will head to Darlington Raceway on May 8 for the Goodyear 400. This race will mark the first time that he has taken on the South Carolina track in the Gen 7 era, and he will use the opportunity to potentially surpass his previous career-best finish of 12th overall (2018 Southern 500).
Stenhouse Has Dealt With Numerous Issues
The driver of the No. 47 has shown speed during the 2022 Cup Series season. He entered the weekend at Dover with 23 stage points in the first 10 races, and then he added another six during the second stage at Dover. However, he didn’t have any strong finishes other than a 10th-place run at Auto Club Speedway.
Stenhouse was in contention for a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500 before contact from Brad Keselowski resulted in a wreck that ended his day early. He crashed again at Atlanta Motor Speedway before a mechanical issue disrupted his run at Circuit of the Americas. Stenhouse’s fourth DNF took place at Talladega Superspeedway due to a crash.
“We were looking to come in here and run top-15 because we’ve had such bad races,” Stenhouse told media members on pit road. “We didn’t want to ask for too much. We’ve got a lot of good tracks coming up that I feel like we can take this package and move forward and hopefully have some more good runs.”
Stenhouse Used Dover To Gain Momentum in a Previous Season
The Cup Series race on May 2 was not the first time that Stenhouse has gained some momentum at The Monster Mile. He also did so during the 2017 season while fighting to remain alive in the playoffs.
Stenhouse entered the Apache Warrior 400 on the cutline and in a battle with Ryan Newman for points. He needed a strong performance to reach the Round of 12, and he did just enough to move on while Newman, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Austin Dillon fell out of championship contention.
The biggest talking point of the afternoon occurred during the first stage. Stenhouse gambled and stayed out on the track on old tires to gain several crucial spots and potentially secure his first stage points of the playoffs. He moved into the top 10 and continued racing among the leaders for the remaining laps. He finished Stage 1 seventh overall and gained an advantage over his fellow drivers hovering on the cutline.
Stenhouse went on and finished 19th overall, but he moved on to the second round of the playoffs. The reason is that he managed to stay two points ahead of Newman and on the positive side of the cutline.