Sten­house steals show at Day­tona

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD -

DAY­TONA BEACH, Fla. — Ricky Sten­house Jr. was in vic­tory lane Satur­day night at an­other re­stric­tor-plate race.

Sten­house raced to his sec­ond vic­tory of the sea­son — sec­ond con­sec­u­tive on a re­stric­tor-plate track — at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way. Both events were billed as show­cases for re­tir­ing driver Dale Earn­hardt Jr., but Sten­house was the star of both.

Sten­house picked up his first ca­reer NACAR Cup Se­ries vic­tory in May at Tal­ladega. Just like last time, girl­friend Dan­ica Pa­trick was there to greet him in vic­tory lane — she had wrecked out shortly be­fore and was the first per­son at his car win­dow when he pulled in to cel­e­brate.

“It val­i­dates what we did in Tal­ladega,” Sten­house said.

He earned this one for Roush Fen­way Rac­ing in a two-lap over­time sprint when leader David Ra­gan tried to block the field and lost mo­men­tum. Sten­house squirted by and held on for the vic­tory. He did it in a new car, too, be­cause he wasn’t giv­ing back the Ford he drove at Tal­ladega to his first ca­reer Cup vic­tory.

“I kept my Tal­ladega car and told them to build a new one,” he said. “I have been com­ing here since 2008. I ac­tu­ally came in 2006 one time with Bobby Hamil­ton Jr. and it is cool to put it in vic­tory lane and get our sec­ond win this year.”

Clint Bowyer was sec­ond for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week.

“This brides­maid deal sucks. I want to win. We’re in this busi­ness to win,” said Bowyer. “But sec­ond is bet­ter than third.”

Bowyer joined Sten­house to give Ford Per­for­mance a 1-2 fin­ish and en­gine builder Doug Yates. Ford has won all three plate races this sea­son.

Paul Me­nard was third, fol­lowed by Michael McDow­ell, Ryan New­man and Ra­gan.

Bren­dan Gaughan, AJ All­mendinger, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher rounded out a bizarre top 10. Many of the top con­tenders were knocked out in ac­ci­dents, in­clud­ing Pa­trick, who kicked her car in frus­tra­tion when she wrecked. She also was out of the race and in street clothes when Sten­house won at Tal­ladega.

The race had hit full in­ten­sity in the fi­nal 10 laps with se­ries points leader Kyle Lar­son slic­ing his way into con­tention. He was chas­ing Ty Dil­lon for the lead with seven laps re­main­ing when he moved up a lane to block Sten­house.

There wasn’t enough room for Lar­son’s car in front of Sten­house, and the con­tact turned Lar­son to­ward the wall and lifted his car off the track. It trig­gered an eight-car ac­ci­dent that col­lected Day­tona 500 win­ner Kurt Busch and whit­tled down the field to just a hand­ful of con­tenders.

NASCAR red-flagged the race to clean the dam­age, and went back to yel­low af­ter a stop­page of nearly nine min­utes.

Dil­lon was out front as the leader, fol­lowed by Ra­gan, All­mendinger and Sten­house, who de­spite driv­ing un­der Lar­son’s air­borne car, seemed to come out un­scathed and restarted fourth.

Ra­gan got a good push from All­mendinger on the restart, but a spin by Denny Ham­lin and Erik Jones brought out the cau­tion to send the race into over­time. That’s when Sten­house got his chance.

“I zigged when I should have zagged,” Ra­gan said. “It’s tough to block two or three lanes com­ing to the white flag. I missed it on that run. If I couldn’t win I’m glad an­other Ford is in vic­tory lane. Ricky’s a good guy and I’m proud for that team.”

The race was billed as the fi­nal one at Day­tona for Earn­hardt. But win­ning the pole for Satur­day night made him el­i­gi­ble for an ex­hi­bi­tion race in Fe­bru­ary.

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