LONG POND, Pa. – Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. apparently have hugged it out, figuratively and literally.
After Stenhouse vowed retribution (video above) for crashing after a flat tire from contact with Jones at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a chance meeting between the pair this week on Lake Norman in the Charlotte area defused the tension.
“We had a good day,” Jones said Saturday after qualifying fifth at Pocono Raceway. “I didn’t even know he was going to be out there. We ended up hanging out.
“It was fine. Ricky and I have always got along fine. We’ve had our differences on the racetrack from time to time, but I think we’re all good. I asked him if he needed a hug at the end of the day before I left out, but we’re all good. We had a good time out on the lake and patched things up.”
Jones, who finished third at New Hampshire to continue his surge toward the playoffs, had been adamant that he did nothing wrong after he felt Stenhouse impeded his progress for five laps.
“Ricky races people hard, and I think he knows that,” Jones said. “I wasn’t going to apologize to him for it. I didn’t want to wreck him. I didn’t want to take him out of the race. My move wasn’t to end his day. Unfortunately, it did. If you’re going to race hard, especially at that point in the race, you’re going to get raced hard back. Ricky and I understand that. I think we’ve come to a common ground there on how to race each other going forward.
Stenhouse conceded Saturday at Pocono that “we were in the way” of Jones at New Hampshire and said his frustration mostly stemmed from still being miffed that Jones didn’t say anything after spinning Stenhouse at Bristol Motor Speedway last year.
“That and (New Hampshire) added together was a little frustrating,” Stenhouse said. “I probably won’t go crash him like I thought I would. I don’t really like going to crash people on purpose. I’ll still race hard. It’s just what I do. It’s settled a little bit more.
“I’ll still race hard and similar to what he said. I like Erik. We just had a couple of run-ins, which everybody in this garage has. So there’s people mad at each other every week. That’s just part of our sport. Part of the package. We’re all racing so hard. It’s so hard to pass at some racetracks. You’ve got to hustle your car. You’ve got to drive your car hard. I enjoy it, but it definitely gets people frustrated.”
The 36th at New Hampshire was Stenhouse’s third DNF of the season. With six races remaining in the regular season, he’s ranked 20th in the points standings and in must-win territory to qualify for the playoffs.
“Obviously, I feel like Bristol is our best chance (for a victory) by far,” said Stenhouse, pointing to the Aug. 17 race at the final short track in the regular season.