Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Promising Run for Stenhouse Jr. Ends Early at Talladega

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drives his wrecked No. 6 Ford to pit road. Credit:John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Coming off a top-10 finish at Texas last weekend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came to Talladega Superspeedway intent upon winning the Aaron’s 312. However, Stenhouse Jr. and his team knew it would be no easy feat if they wanted to make it to victory lane. At a track known for the infamous “Big One,” the team was a bit nervous once the green flag waved. The good news is Stenhouse Jr. avoided the Big One following a green-white-checkered attempt. The bad news is he was already out of the race before it happened after wrecking on lap 70.

With the two-car drafts coming into play, Stenhouse Jr. knew he would have to work with a driver from another team since teammates Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne had already decided to work together. The No. 6 Blackwell Angus Beef Ford took the green flag from the 14th position, and it wasn’t long before Stenhouse Jr. found a drafting partner.

He hooked up with the No. 12 of Sam Hornish Jr. in the early going. The two worked well together, and Stenhouse Jr. took the lead on lap 19 and led until lap 23, when the caution came out for the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick losing an engine. He made a pit stop for right-side tires and fuel and restarted 3rd. Once the green flag waved again, Stenhouse Jr. hooked up with Hornish Jr. once again. On lap 45, he lost his drafting partner when a nudge from behind sent Hornish Jr. spinning through the grass. Following that restart, Stenhouse Jr. paired up with the No. 31 of Justin Allgaier. At first, he pushed the No. 31 because he wasn’t entirely comfortable with Allgaier pushing him. On lap 70, while running in the top five, Stenhouse Jr. was being pushed by Allgaier when he saw his chances to win the race go up in smoke. The No. 6 Ford drifted up and made contact with the No. 16 Ford of teammate Trevor Bayne. The contact sent the Blackwell Angus Beef Ford turning right into the wall.

The damage was too much for the team to repair. Stenhouse Jr. was forced to the garage, accepting a 38th-place finish. He dropped to 4th in the standings, 8 points behind leader Jason Leffler.

“It was just racing, I guess. It looked like Trevor [Bayne] might have got a push from Carl [Edwards], got a little loose,” Stenhouse Jr. said following the incident. “I was just following the 31 [Allgaier] kind of wherever they went and it looked like the left-front just got into the right-rear and got us in the fence. It’s tough. Our Blackwell Angus Beef Ford Mustang was awesome all day. I can’t thank the guys enough at the engine shop, the body shop for getting this thing back from Daytona. We were really, really fast, but it just didn’t end right for us. It’s a tough one to swallow.”

Next up for the team is the Nashville 300 at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday. The race will air on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET.

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