Ricky Stenhouse Jr. parlays strategic call into third-place run at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 23: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 23, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has a lucky charm. His name is Brian Pattie.

In his capacity as crew chief on Stenhouse’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Chevrolet, Pattie often opts for contrarian strategy. That certainly was the case in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as Stenhouse built on a strong Daytona Speedweeks with a strategic third-place finish in the second NASCAR Cup Series race of the season.

Pattie repeatedly kept Stenhouse on the track during green-flag pit stop cycles, hoping for a timely caution. The gamble finally paid off when Chase Elliott hit the Turn 1 wall on Lap 220 because of a flat left rear tire.

At that point, only Stenhouse, teammate Ryan Preece and Sunoco rookie John Hunter Nemechek were on lead lap, having stayed out on the track as the rest of the field came to pit road. Stenhouse made the most of his serendipitous track position and brought the No. 47 Camaro home in third place during a wild two-lap shootout at the end of the event.

“Brian is just really good at calling races, and he apologized for that one (earlier in the race),” said Stenhouse, who led 30 laps two weeks after winning the pole position for the Daytona 500. “That one backfired on us that second run. We got good track position, and then we stayed out a little too long and gave up that track position.

“So then we were fighting kind of all race to get it back up, and he went long again, and it paid off with the caution. Our Kroger Camaro was good. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we know what we need to work on now, and it was cool to get a good solid run in this Camaro for everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing.

“So far, so good. We know what we need to work on, and I know Brian and the boys will tune it up.”

Greg Engle