BAD LUCK STRIKES RICKY STENHOUSE JR. AND THE NO. 6 CITIFINANCIAL TEAM IN FONTANA FONTANA, Calif. (February 20, 2010) -- It was a weekend that truly was like night and day for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 6 team. After fighting a tight car in...
BAD LUCK STRIKES RICKY STENHOUSE JR. AND THE NO. 6 CITIFINANCIAL TEAM IN FONTANA
FONTANA, Calif. (February 20, 2010) -- It was a weekend that truly was like night and day for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 6 team. After fighting a tight car in both practices on Friday, the crew loosened up the CitiFinancial Ford Fusion for Saturday's time trials. Stenhouse qualified 26th and was optimistic that his machine would come to life in the Stater Bros. 300. However, the rookie was a victim of someone else's misfortune leading to a 39th place finish in his first career start at Auto Club Speedway.
From the drop of the green flag, Stenhouse was up on the wheel; battling what crew chief Ben Leslie called an "ill-handling car". The first caution flag couldn't come soon enough for Stenhouse, who had his hands full with what he said was a "sensitive" car and "free" all over the track, a stark contrast from the way the weekend started. On lap 34, Stenhouse brought his Ford Fusion to the attention of the CitiFinancial crew who made wholesale changes with hopes of making the car tighter. After a 14.9 second stop, Stenhouse picked up five spots on the track but the car was still free all the way through the corners.
For 42 laps, Stenhouse wrestled the car but his demeanor on the radio had changed as he reported that the car was "getting better". On lap 79, he hit pit road for the second stop of the day, this time under green flag conditions. Leslie called for track bar adjustments and wedge adjustments. Another 14 second stop put Stenhouse in position to get back on the lead lap.
As the laps clicked off, the car was responding to the changes that were made and Stenhouse was running times comparable to position nine on the racetrack which had the crew thinking their luck was changing. Then, on lap 119, a spinning John Wes Townley caused havoc for Stenhouse who was unable to avoid trouble. Stenhouse finished 39th.
"The 21 (Townley) spun off of two and I couldn't really tell where he was going and didn't hear which way he was going," said Stenhouse. "I was to the inside of the 10 (David Reutimann) and I decided to go to the bottom. Once I did, he was even further down to the bottom than where I was so I had to go a little extra and just lost it." Stenhouse went on to say, "We struggled being really tight on Friday and then really loose on today. We made some big changes during the race on both pit stops and got it pretty competitive. But, two races in a row with DNF's is not a good start to the season."
While Stenhouse struggles to pull anything positive from the weekend, veteran crew chief Ben Leslie knows it's a long season.
"I thought we had something there after making all those adjustments but we just got caught up in someone else's mess and got collected," said Leslie. "It was good to see how everyone worked this weekend. We were gaining on it but unfortunately we didn't finish so we have to move forward now. Everyone is going to make mistakes; rookies are going to make mistakes. I don't think you can put a lot of weight on this. We are just going to have to move forward and I think Ricky and this team will be able to do that in Las Vegas."
Defending Nationwide Series champion Kyle Busch was the first to the checkered flag in the Stater Bros. 300 on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. It marks the 31st time Busch has visited victory lane in the Nationwide Series tying him with Jack Ingram for third on all time wins list.
Next week, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Sin City for the third stop of the season. Stenhouse and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team will hit the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Sam's Town 300. This will be the rookie's first trip to the 1.5-mile track in Las Vegas.