Ricky Stenhouse earns fourth career top-five finish, first at intermediate track

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been in this position before, just not that often and not at this kind of track.

In his 117th Sprint Cup start, Stenhouse earned his fourth top-five finish by placing fifth Sunday at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.

It’s Stenhouse’s first top five at a track not named Bristol Motor Speedway or Talladega Superspeedway. In other words, it’s his first top five on a type of track — 1.5-mile or larger — that makes up a majority of the series’ schedule.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also recorded his second top-10 finish of the year.

Stenhouse moved his car into position on an overtime restart after spending most of the 205-lap race in the average running spot of 12.42. Stenhouse ran there after starting 18th, his lowest starting point through five races.

“It was really good for us,” Stenhouse said. “That was a crazy restart there at the end. We had a really good Fastenal Ford on the long run and that’s where we excelled – kind of like Atlanta and Las Vegas.”

Stenhouse finished 10th at Atlanta and 12th at Las Vegas before a tire issue ended his team’s day at Phoenix in 37th.

No tire issues plagued the No. 17 team in a race filled with them. It was a shredded tire that caused the final caution, setting up Stenhouse’s rally.

“Our tires were good every pit stop, which was good for us, and we made the right adjustments there at the end,” Stenhouse said. “(Crew chief ) Nick (Sandler) did a great job. The pit crew did a great job and we were able to get the adjustments that we needed and was able to really rip the top there and gain a few extra spots at the end.”

Heading into the first hiatus of the season, Stenhouse is 14th in the point standings. That’s not the highest the Roush Fenway Racing driver has ever been at this point in the season. After five races as a rookie in 2013, Stenhouse was 12th. The next year, he was 15th.