A contrite Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gets police escort out of Daytona

Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Hooters Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FexEx Cares Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident with several other cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at DIS on July 7, 2018

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will not be getting many Christmas cards this December.

The Roush-Fenway Racing driver didn’t make many friends Saturday night during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Coke Zero Sugar 400 after being the spark that touched off two multi-car crashes.

Stenhouse came into Daytona as the defending winner of the race having won here last July, his first career Cup win. That race however was tame compared to the carnage that that was left in his wake Saturday night.

Showing aggressiveness early, the first crash erupted on lap 54 when Brad Keselowski was spun after contact from Stenhouse near the front of the field.  A total of 25 cars were swept up with several, including Keselowski done for the night.

“Ricky was doing the best he could to give me a good push and had a great run to take the lead and the car in front of me just threw a late, bad block,” Keselowski said blaming William Byron for causing the crash.  “I made the mistake of lifting instead of just driving through him and that’s my fault.  I know better than that.  I’ve got to wreck more people and then they’ll stop blocking me late and behind like that.  That’s my fault.  I’ll take the credit for my team and we’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”

Less than 10 laps later, Stenhouse made contact with Kyle Busch as the two dueled for second place.  Busch was sent up and into the turn 4 wall sweeping up then-leader Byron in the process; needless to say, the never-at-a-loss-for-words Busch wasn’t exactly overjoyed at ending his night in the garage.

“Disappointing to get crashed out by the same guy that caused the first crash,” said Busch. “You always come to Daytona waiting to crash and figure out when or where and hope you can walk away from it. That’s really frustrating and disappointing to have to race these races like that on the fence or line of when are you going to wreck. But we’ll move on to next week.”

The normally squeaky-clean Byron was also a bit upset.

“Yeah, just the No. 17 car (Stenhouse, Jr.) just kind of I guess hooked the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) into me,” Byron said.  “It seemed like he was being really aggressive and that is the second time we have kind of been on the wrong end of something with him.”

Stenhouse would go on to lead a race high 51 laps but lost out on his chance to win when late in the going he made contact with Kyle Larson which caused a tire rub. A few laps later a rear tire on Stenhouse’s Ford exploded sending him spinning coming off turn 4 and sliding across the infield grass, much to the delight of the fans who roared with approval.  Stenhouse would finish 17th.

After the race, perhaps with the jeers from fans still ringing in his ears, Stenhouse took some responsibility.

“The first one, the 24 (Byron) blocked the 2 (Keselowski) and from where I was sitting I thought we were gonna get to the inside of him, so I wasn’t really expecting him to check up that quick,” Stenhouse said.  “The second one with the 18, I was just too aggressive trying to get to his left-rear, trying to get back to the lead and back out front.”

Like Keselowski, he also put some of the blame for the first crash on Byron’s blocking, but said he understood why.

“I did that here in February and threw an aggressive block down the back straightaway that in turn caused a big crash like that too,” Stenhouse said.  “I can see it from Byron’s side and from my side I was a little frustrated he threw the block, but then again I can’t be too mad because I felt like I did that in February.”

As for the second crash Stenhouse admitted fault.

“I was just too aggressive trying to get to his (Busch’s) left-rear, trying to get back to the lead and back out front where our Fifth Third Ford was really dominant,” Stenhouse said.  “We definitely brought, I feel like, the best car here in the field.  Winning two stages was nice, but obviously we wanted to win at the end and it’s a bummer we basically crashed all of our teammates out of it.  It was kind of tough after that and it all came back to get me with the damage from the 42, which was probably a wreck I caused, cut a tire down in front of us.  A bummer of a night. “

At the conclusion of his ‘bummer of a night’ Stenhouse was escorted from the track by local police officers. Like most of the other drivers, it wasn’t long before Stenhouse disappeared into the night on a private plane heading home.

No issues were reported with his aircraft.

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