Ricky Stenhouse Jr. snags much-needed runner-up finish at Dover

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DOVER, Del. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was in desperate need of the runner-up finish he scored Monday at Dover Motor Speedway.

In the opening 10 races, the No. 47 Chevrolet had just two finishes higher than 27th — 10th at Auto Club Speedway and 21st at Las Vegas.

That miserable stretch was alleviated with a second-place finish at Dover, his best finish since finishing sixth at Nashville in June 2021.

“We needed it bad,” Stenhouse said. “We’ve had race cars and better race cars than I feel like what we’ve shown. Feels like all of our fast races we’ve had issues. Getting crashed at the superspeedways, we’ve had some engine issues, but all in all, man, it was a solid day to put all this together.”

Stenhouse had the seventh-best average running position (8.87) in a race that was postponed to Monday when rain washed out Sunday’s event after 78 laps were completed. Stenhouse entered Dover ranked 24th in average running position at 20.72.

“Our season, I feel like, feels worse than what it is just because our short-track program — we’ve had three short tracks and we’ve been really bad at those,” said Stenhouse, who finished 28th at Richmond, 27th at Martinsville and 29th on Bristol Dirt. “We’re trying to come up with a new philosophy there, but we were excited to come to Dover. It’s always been a decent track for us, and everything kind of played out right there where we got cautions at the right time and kept our track position, had good pit stops. So all that was kind of going into our favor.

“I was hoping we were going to get into a little bit more lapped traffic and stay green from when we went back to green after that stage. But all in all, it was a fun day for us.”

Stenhouse has shown speed at times this season, particularly at in superspeedway racing. He was running third in the Daytona 500 before contact from Brad Keselowski sent him into the wall and was leading at Atlanta when a right-rear tire failed, causing him to crash and ending his race early.

Mechanical failures have bitten the team too, including an engine failure in practice at Phoenix, a drivetrain failure at Circuit of the Americas. Those frustrations, he said, made for a mentally challenging start to the year.

“I mean you can only hang your hat on so much as far as, ‘hey we got fast race cars and got nothing to show for it,'” Stenhouse said. “You can only do that so many times. We’ve been working really hard and taking the information we can get and try and put together good races.”

Finally, Stenhouse was able to earn a result worthy of actually celebrating. The team entered with hopes of a top-15 finish, mindful to not make any greedy wishes.

“Car was a lot of fun to drive,” Stenhouse said. “It was tough. The cars are tough to drive and tough in traffic, but we were able to move around a lot more than I thought we would be coming into this race this weekend. I had a lot of fun.

“Hopefully this is the start of putting everything together. We’ve got a little bit new philosophy coming into this weekend and hopefully that’ll pay dividends as we go forward and the shop guys definitely needed this.”

Still, there was a tinge of disappointment from Stenhouse, who is in the midst of his 10th full-time Cup season. Without a win, he sits 27th in points and remains well outside of any realistic chance to make the playoffs via points.

“No doubt you’ve got to win, and that’s why you’re a little frustrated, finishing second knowing that one spot could really flip your season completely upside down in a good way,” Stenhouse said. “We’ll still battle for that. (Crew chief) Brian Pattie is calling races to make sure we try and get that win that we need.”

Stenhouse’s plans for 2023 remain undetermined. JTG Daugherty Racing condensed to one car at the conclusion of the 2021 season, closing the doors on the unchartered No. 37 team it previously fielded with driver Ryan Preece.

“We’re working on it with (team co-owner) Tad (Geschickter),” Stenhouse said of his future plans. “Tad’s always working hard on the sponsorship side of things and once he gets all that secured, then we’ll move forward with my deal. But I’m having, really, a lot of fun here and everybody’s working hard. You can look at the start of the season and be bummed, but I feel like we’ve got a lot of good things going and hopefully this is the start of it.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.