Iowa Pit Strategy Nets Stenhouse A Needed Top-Five


Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in action at Iowa Speedway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard photo)

NEWTON, Iowa – Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. played the tire strategy game late in Sunday night’s inaugural Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway to earn a top-five finish with his NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet Camaro.

After running mid-pack during the opening stage, a timely caution toward the end of stage two – for Daniel Hemric’s crash in the second corner – allowed the Olive Branch, Miss., native to stay on track and lead the field to green.

Although the gamble didn’t reward Stenhouse with stage points at that juncture, it gave him valuable track position that he kept for the rest of the race.

The end result was fifth, Stenhouse’s second top-five of the NASCAR Cup Series season and first since running fourth at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April.

“I don’t know if I felt like we were a top-five car,” Stenhouse said afterward. “We were top five in 15-lap averages in practice, so we definitely picked up [pace].

“The guys did a great job … on the pit box with that strategy call, and those two tires at the end [got us] just a little more clean air and track position.”

It was an impressive run for Stenhouse, a three-time Xfinity Series winner at Iowa, after starting 35th Sunday night and methodically working his way through the field.

“The first run and starting at the back, we were really strong late in that run, so I felt confident in what our NOS Energy Drink Camaro could do throughout the whole race,” Stenhouse noted. “We had a little mishap on pit road that set us back again, to kind of that back row that we had to battle back from. My guys cleaned it up on pit road, though, and we had great strategy with two tires [late] to get us back to clean air at the front of the field.

“I really wanted to go battle (Ryan) Blaney there. We got to second, just got a little too loose and couldn’t hold those guys behind us off,” he continued. “Really cool to do a Cup race here in Iowa after all our success … and to do it in front of a [sold-out] crowd.”

JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty noted during NBC Sports’ post-race coverage the significance and timing of Stenhouse’s strong performance Sunday night as well.

“We have admittedly struggled this year; it’s been really, really tough, but coming here [to Iowa] I knew Ricky would be really confident,” said Daugherty. “That’s what we need [as a team] from Ricky. When he’s confident, he can go do the job. He did a great job and our guys worked hard at a critical point in the season for us.”

Stenhouse and JTG Daugherty Racing look to continue their recent momentum going into the summer and make a push for a berth in the playoffs, though they’ll likely need a win to accomplish that goal.

He gained two spots in the standings to 25th, 146 points back of the postseason cutline with nine races remaining in the regular season.

Stenhouse and the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series field move on to Loudon, N.H., for the USA Today 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Coverage from the Magic Mile begins Sunday, June 23 at 2:30 p.m. EST on USA, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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