CONCORD, N.C. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. survived the Round of 16 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff by the thinnest of margins—he grabbed seven stage points at Dover to edge Ryan Newman by two points for the final berth in the Round of 12.
Conventional wisdom says Stenhouse must win next Sunday at Talladega to make it to the Round of 8, and that’s not an unreasonable supposition. After all, the driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford has won the two most recent events at restrictor-plate tracks. But don’t tell Stenhouse he can’t advance on points. After all, crew chief Brian Pattie did the math, and it was Pattie who kept Stenhouse on the track at Dover to set up the risk/reward play for the decisive stage points.
“I’d love to do it by winning Talladega, but I think, realistically, you’ve got to plan on points,” Stenhouse said. “That’s our mind-set for now. If we took the races – the first Charlotte, the first Kansas and obviously the first Talladega – not counting the win to advance us, but if you take those points, we would have sat sixth out of the drivers that are left.
“So Pattie kind of showed me that this week, that, if we can get back to doing what we were capable of earlier in the season, that we can do it on points as well. That’s going take a lot of effort. We’re not there right now, but as the weekend went last time we were here for the 600, we got a little bit better until we ran at night. I thought we were a little bit off, but our mind-set is points right now, and we’ll see how that changes after Charlotte.”
Though Stenhouse was the last driver to qualify for the Round of 12, he’s seeded eighth to start the round, thanks to 10 playoff points earned for his wins at Talladega and Daytona.