In a Daytona 500 that racked up late-race cautions, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took a lambasting on social media for his part in a Lap 195 multicar wreck that collected Kevin Harvick’s Ford and a half-dozen other cars.
As the front of the field approached Turn 3, Stenhouse saw a gaping hole between Harvick’s Mustang in the bottom lane and Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet on top. Stenhouse shot the gap.
When Larson pulled down to block, the cars pinballed off each other and collected four cars behind them. Twitter lit up with invective against Stenhouse.
Only one problem. In Harvick’s view, the wreck wasn’t Stenhouse’s fault.
“I don’t really feel like Stenhouse did anything wrong,” Harvick said on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I feel like the 42 (Larson) pulled a block that was like three seconds too late and smacked him down into the side. I don’t feel like he really did anything wrong in shooting that gap that was wide open.
“It was just a really, really bad block by the 42. That’s why you should always watch (a replay) before you complain and make a fool out of yourself, like I have done in the past. Initially, that’s what I would have done. I would have been mad at him, but then you go watch the video, and that wasn’t the case.”
For his part, Stenhouse doesn’t let the criticism bother him, but he does make a note of which drivers are doing the complaining.
“Let ’em think what they want,” Stenhouse said. “I’ll definitely file that away. They definitely won’t get any help from here on out. I think everybody was a little bit frustrated.”
Stenhouse was convinced he wasn’t the proximate cause of the wreck.
“I knew what happened from my seat,” he told the NASCAR Wire Service. “Any time I make a mistake on the race track, I always reach out to those people. I didn’ t feel like I made a mistake, Larson texted me as soon as the race was over and was like, ‘Hey, sorry about that wreck on the back straightaway.’
You know, it just happens. There was a massive gap in the middle, and my car was handling really good. I felt like I needed to shoot the middle to get to the top five, ’cause you watch these races, and the top five doesn’t change within the last four or five laps.
“There were six to go, and I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got to get to the top five to have a shot at winning.’ So that’s the move I made. It just didn’t work out.”
But, objectively, you can’t blame Stenhouse for trying.