Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hopes to seize best opportunity at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 05: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a realist.

Approaching the halfway point of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford is embroiled in a tight points battle for one of the last spots in the Playoffs.

Through 17 races, Stenhouse is 16th in the standings, but the defending winner of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is not currently in a Playoff-eligible position, give that 19th-place Austin Dillon has secured a top-16 spot with his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500.

But Stenhouse can make the points issue moot by repeating as the winner of Saturday’s race, and he’s practical enough to know that the last restrictor-plate of the regular season gives him his best chance.

“Yeah, for sure,” Stenhouse said Thursday between practices at Daytona. “I think we’ve got Daytona, and I feel like Bristol—there are two tracks that we can still potentially win at, being able to go out and win a race.

“Obviously, there are race tracks where things can play out. I don’t think we have the speed at the mile-and-a-halves yet to go out there and win like we want to, so I think, realistically, when I go to those mile-and-a-halves, I’m like, ‘Hey, let’s somehow manage a 12th-place finish.’

“Whether you get a couple stage points and you finish 15th and you’re averaging basically a 12th-place finish, that’s what we look at when we go to some of those tracks, but Daytona definitely Saturday night is a really big opportunity for us, but for everyone else, too.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.