Stenhouse Jr. Battles Handling Issues to Finish 8th at Texas

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Last fall, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran one of the best races of his career at Texas Motor Speedway, and he hoped to repeat that on Friday during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. However, he found that was easier said than done.

Stenhouse Jr. qualified 4th in the No. 6 Easy Feet Ford and ran inside the top five for much of the opening run of the race on Friday. He took the lead from teammate Carl Edwards on lap 23 and led until lap 27 when Edwards reclaimed the lead. The No. 6 Ford began to get tight in the center of the turns and snapping loose off the turns.

During a green-flag pit stop, Stenhouse Jr. pitted for four tires, fuel, a track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment. Almost immediately after leaving pit road, he reported that the No. 6 Ford’s handling had not improved. On lap 69, the first caution of the night came out as the No. 23 of Robert Richardson Jr. spun off turn two. Stenhouse Jr. pitted under the caution for more adjustments, which still did not help.

The caution flag waved again on lap 89 as the No. 52 of Tim Schendel and No. 18 of Kyle Busch were involved in an incident. Once again, Stenhouse Jr. pitted for adjustments. By lap 131, he had climbed back up to third, but as the handling started to go away again, he began to drop back. The frustration of driving an ill-handling car soon began to show, and spotter Mike Calinoff had to come on the radio to try and calm Stenhouse Jr. down. The team made adjustments every chance they had, and at one point even tried to set the car back the way it was when the race first started. Nothing they did seemed to remotely fix the loose-handling condition that had developed. Even crew chief Mike Kelley wasn’t sure why they were having that problem.

In the closing laps, the No. 6 Ford just couldn’t crack the top five again. Stenhouse Jr. radioed to his crew with around five laps remaining “That’s all she’s got.” He took the checkered flag from the 8th position. Despite all the trouble the team had with trying to fix the car’s handling, Stenhouse Jr. remains the points leader and now has a 14-point lead over Jason Leffler.

Next up for the team is the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 16.
Stenhouse Jr. Battles Handling Issues to Finish 8th at Texas Stenhouse Jr. Battles Handling Issues to Finish 8th at Texas Reviewed by Whitney R. on Monday, April 11, 2011 Rating: 5