Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Kentucky

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Photo by: Matt Sullivan

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kentucky Speedway under the lights for the Quaker State 400.

Four different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, with one driver earning his first win with a new team.

No. 1 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his third top-five finish of the season on Saturday, finishing fourth.

It is the Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s second top-five finish in three races.

Larson failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a sixth place finish.

He is 13th in the standings, 235 points behind leader Logano and 31 points away from Almirola in 10th.

No. 2 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his 31st career MENCS victory, leading 41 laps at the 1.5-mile track.

Busch won Stage 1 and finished seventh in Stage 2.

The victory is the veteran’s first of the season and first with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Busch is tied with former champion Martin Truex Jr. for sixth in the standings, 128 points behind Logano.

No. 3 Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin earned his eighth top five of 2019, finishing fifth.

Hamlin led five laps on Saturday in addition to finishing fourth in Stage 1.

He is fifth in the standings, 119 points behind Logano.

No. 4 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 12th at Kentucky, after leading 21 laps.

Stenhouse earned stage points in Stage 1 with seventh and held an average position of 12th throughout the event.

Stenhouse is 19th in the standings, 319 points behind Logano and 46 points away from the last cutoff position held by Erik Jones, in 16th.

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher earned his fourth top-10 finish of the season on Saturday, scoring 10th.

Buescher failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third. Buescher also tied his 2017 season with most top-10s in a season.

He is 21st in the standings, 350 points behind Logano and 23 points behind Paul Menard in 20th.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Kansas

Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kansas Speedway on Saturday, May 11th ahead of Mother’s Day.

Five different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, including a rookie and a former MENCS champion.

No. 1 Tyler Reddick – Tyler Reddick earned the first top 10 of his Cup career on Saturday, finishing in the ninth position.

Reddick, who is the defending Xfinity Series champion, failed to earn stage points on Saturday, but ran as high as third and held an average position of 16th.

No. 2 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. barely missed scoring a top-10 finish during the Digital Ally 400, finishing 11th.

The Roush Fenway driver earned stage points during Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (fifth).

Stenhouse is tied with Paul Menard for 20th in the standings, 211 points behind leader Joey Logano and 37 points away from 15th.

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson earned his fifth top-10 finish of the season at Kansas, finishing sixth.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as fourth throughout 400.5 miles.

Johnson sits 16th in the standings, 186 points behind Logano and 48 points behind 10th place, held by Ryan Blaney.

No. 4 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher earned his second top-10 finish of 2019 on Saturday, finishing 10th.

Buescher earned stage points in Stage 1 and Stage 2 with sixth place finishes, respectively.

Buescher is 23rd in the standings, 253 points behind Logano and 42 away from 20th.

No. 5 Daniel Suarez – Daniel Suarez finished 14th on Saturday, gaining 14 positions from his finish one year ago.

Suarez failed to earn stage points at the 1.5-mile track, but ran as high as second and was seventh by the middle of the race.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is 13th in the standings, 163 points behind Logano and 25 points behind Blaney.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Homestead

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crowned a champion on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season finale.

The Big 3 were the favorites heading into the championship weekend, but it was Team Penske’s Joey Logano that earned his first career series title.

Three former champions and two young guns are featured in this week’s Top 5.

No. 1 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has not earned a top-10 finish since earning third at Talladega, but that does not mean that the Roush Fenway Racing driver hasn’t been making gains.

Stenhouse finished in the 16th position on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his second-best finish in the last five races.

Stenhouse failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as eighth at the 1.5-mile track and held a 14th place average throughout 400.5 miles.

Stenhouse finished 18th in the point standings.

No. 2 Matt Kenseth – Matt Kenseth earned his second top 10 of the 2018 season at Homestead-Miami during the Ford EcoBoost 400, finishing in the sixth position.

Kenseth failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as second on Sunday.

Kenseth finished 32nd in the point standings. The veteran driver ran a partial schedule for Roush Fenway Racing after five seasons racing for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kenseth currently has no plans for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing in 2019.

No. 3 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his 22nd top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing 10th.

Busch gained stage points in Stage 1 (10th) and Stage 2 (seventh). He ran as high as fourth and held a ninth-place finishing average.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s finish is his first top-10 at Homestead since 2015.

No. 4 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson’s last race with longtime partner Lowe’s was a throwback to the seven-time champion’s rookie season.

Johnson finished in the 14th position on Sunday.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but finished ninth at the end of Stage 2.

Johnson finished 14th in the point standings, the lowest he has ever finished under the new playoff format.

No. 5 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney matched his best finish at Homestead on Sunday, finishing in the 17th position.

Blaney failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but gained 12 positions from his finish at the track one year ago.

The 24-year old’s first season with Team Penske earned him one win, eight top-five finishes, and 16 top 10s.

Blaney finished 10th in the point standings.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Bristol

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway saw a lot of stop-and-go thanks to rain that caused Sunday’s event to be postponed to Monday, but not before the event was red flagged three times for weather.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars went 204 laps before the remainder of the event got pushed to Monday, when a former champion and 11-year veteran scored their best finishes of the year.

Five different organizations are featured in this week’s top-5 for the first time this season.

No. 1 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson may have won this event one year ago, but immediately was put at a disadvantage when an unapproved tire change after qualifying forced the team to give up their starting position.

Johnson recovered to finish third at Bristol, giving the Hendrick Motorsports driver his first top-5 of the season. Johnson had not earned a top-5 since October of 2017 when he finished third at Dover.

Johnson sits 17th in the points standings, 196 points behind leader Kyle Busch. He is one point behind Paul Menard in the 16th position and 72 points from 10th place.

When will Johnson find victory lane? Can Richmond be that place? The 7-time champion has three wins at the three-quarter mile track.

No. 2 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson may have been looking for redemption after an early crash at Texas took him out of contention, but it didn’t run as smoothly as the Chip Ganassi Racing driver hoped for.

Larson was leading when he spun on Lap 324 after receiving a bump from behind from Ryan Newman, but the 25-year-old recovered and re-took the lead on Lap 439. Larson battled with Busch for the remainder of the event, before falling to second in the closing laps.

Larson received stage points in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 after crossing the finish line in the fifth position. He sits ninth in the points standings, 116 points behind Busch.

No. 3 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola gained 16 positions from his finish at the half-mile track one year ago.

Almirola avoided trouble to earn a seventh place finish at Stage 1 end, but drifted to the back at midrace. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver ran as high as third before finishing sixth, earning his third top-10 of the season.

Almirola sits 11th in the points standings, 154 points behind Busch and 30 points behind teammate Kurt Busch, who is in the 10th position.

No. 4 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr quietly and consistently ran up front at Bristol, while earning his first top-5 of the season.

Stenhouse earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (sixth) during the event.

Stenhouse, who finished fourth, gained four spots in the points standings. He’s now in 18th place, 203 points behind the leader.

No. 5 David Ragan – David Ragan earned his best finish of the season at Bristol when he finished in 12th place.

Ragan failed to earn stage points, but was as high as seventh with an average position of 20th place.

This is Ragan’s best finish since finishing 10th at Talladega in the fall.

The momentum gained from this finish can help Ragan at Richmond before heading to Talladega, where the Front Row Motorsports driver has one win, four top-5s, and nine top-10 finishes.

Notables: Busch’s win at Bristol marked the first time in thirty-one years that a driver won at the half-mile track while leading the points standings. The feature was last accomplished by Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 1987.

Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first African American driver since 1963 to lead a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. Wallace led for six laps, before his No. 43 STP Chevrolet began to lose the handling that allowed the rookie contender to battle with two former champions. Wallace salvaged for a 16th place finish.

Daniel Suarez earned an 11th place finish despite suffering a broken finger last weekend at Texas. Suarez also led for five laps on Monday’s rain postponed event.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earns Daytona Victory

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolled into Daytona International Speedway Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wasn’t one of the most talked about, despite his win at its sister track Talladega two months ago. But he was the one with all the glory Saturday night.

Stenhouse propelled himself to victory in overtime to earn his second career victory this season. A feature no one could have predicted, but everyone can appreciate.

Stenhouse started beside David Ragan on the restart after a incident involving Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones brought out the caution. Ragan gained the lead, but Stenhouse quickly made his way to the front for the top spot.

“I was really having to lift a lot to keep from running over the cars in front of us,” Stenhouse said. “Even when I was leading, I could run not-full-throttle and be able to keep them at a certain distance. … I was pretty surprised with our damage that we were able to stay up front that last lap and a half.”

Stenhouse won the Coke Zero 400 in a brand new car that Roush Fenway built for him. The car that he won with at Talladega was gifted to Stenhouse by team owner Jack Roush for his first career MENCS victory.

Stenhouse is one of five drivers that have multiple wins this season. He sits 16th in the standings with nine races to go in the regular season.

The race was plagued with several multi-car accidents that left many of the favored contenders with finishes of 20th or worse.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a wreck on Lap 52 after he felt one of his tires was losing air. That turned out to be a false alarm, however he made contact with Paul Menard and was two laps behind the leaders.

Earnhardt just received the free pass before being collected in a crash after a blown tire sent the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick spinning. Stage 1 winner Brad Keselowski was also involved, ending his night with a finish of 31st.

In the chaotic night the top 10 finishers of the night were practically unrecognizable. Paul Menard, Michael McDowell, and Xfinity Series regular Brendan Gaughan all claimed finishes inside the top 10, with BK Racing’s Corey Lajoie just outside in 11th place.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head under the lights again at Kentucky on July 8, 2017 at 7:30 p.m ET.