He might not be retiring at the end of the season or dominating on a weekly basis, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. quietly is becoming one of the better stories of the 2017 NASCAR season.
With his fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the Roush Fenway Racing driver now has two top fives and four top 10s in his last six races. The recent surge has him sitting 16th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings.
Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider he had just four top fives and six top 10s all of last season.
And although Stenhouse, who started fourth Sunday, wound up finishing where he started, his journey to that destination was just as impressive as the destination itself. After getting loose and running into the wall on Lap 65, Stenhouse had to battle his way back for virtually the entire race.
Following a stop on pit row, Stenhouse returned to the race, only to finish 28th in Stage 1. He quickly cut the deficit by more than half, though, as he finished 13th in Stage 2. He continued clawing his way back, and took advantage of a late caution to finish three spots behind race winner Joey Logano.
Stenhouse isn’t the only member of RFR, however, who’s been hot since his fourth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway on March 19th.
Teammate Trevor Bayne has logged four consecutive top-15 finishes and sits right behind Stenhouse in the Cup standings at 15th. Clearly, RFR is among a handful of teams benefiting from Roush Yates Engines and Ford Performance servicing more teams this season.
Given that he’s 29 years old, Stenhouse isn’t considered a part of NASCAR’s youth movement. But just because he’s been on the Cup level for a few years, doesn’t mean he’s not still trending upward. His Cup ranking has improved every year since 2014, a trend that has more than a good chance of continuing this season.
But beyond the results, Stenhouse has the personality necessary to be a key part of NASCAR’s future.
Thumbnail photo via John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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