Stenhouse salvages fourth after brush with wall

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 30: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Ford, leads Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 AAA Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 30, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. – Just 65 laps into Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped the Turn 3 wall while racing hard with Denny Hamlin.

But Stenhouse recovered to finish fourth at the .75-mile short track, matching his best result of the season, thanks in large part to a decision to stay out on older tires for the final restart on Lap 382.

Of six drivers whose crew chiefs made that call, Stenhouse fared best, holding off Kevin Harvick during an intense 10-lap battle for position.

“Yeah, I made a lot of work for us there, getting in the fence later in that first stage and really we were fighting back all day from there,” Stenhouse said. “Had a really good car on the long run, but we bent the splitter bar down. Was on the splitter for five or six laps, so restarts, I was just trying to keep as best track position as I could, and once we got to Lap 6 or 7, my car kind of came back around to me.

“It was a no brainer there to stay out that last caution. I was glad it came out, because I thought we missed the opportunity the run before to stay out. It worked out perfect. Our Fifth/Third Ford and the guys never gave up, worked hard, and this track is a lot of fun in the sun. It’s hot in the car, hot in the stands, so I appreciate everybody coming out, and it’s nice to have I think four Fords in the top five, so it was cool.”

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