Stenhouse eyeing a good result at Bristol

On the evening of February 19, 2023, Ricky Stenhouse and crew chief Mike Kelley rolled out of the tunnel of Dayton International Speedway and met the world as Daytona 500 winners.

New to JTG Daugherty Racing for the 2023 NASCAR Cup season, Kelley was thrilled with the triumph, but also determined to make Stenhouse and JTG Daugherty a playoff team. And that they did. Stenhouse delivered the most consistent year of his career, while JTG Daughterly experienced the greatest season in its 15 year existence. Now in the Cup playoffs and looking toward his favorite circuit at Bristol on Saturday night, Stenhouse spoke about the trajectory he and JTG Daugherty are on.

Q: What do you think about the performance you guys displayed at the first two playoff races at Darlington and Kansas?

RICKY STENHOUSE: Man, we’ve been good. Struggled a little bit last week at Kansas, but all in all it has still been a solid year. We’ve still got some good things coming down the pipeline that we’re ready for.


We still have a shot at making the next round. That’s all we could ask for. At Darlington I felt like we were a lot better than where we finished. I sped on pit road and kind of put us behind a little bit and we struggled with that. Moving forward to Kansas, we were still close. Saturday was the best practice session and best qualifying session that we’ve had in a long time. I was really happy with it, and happy with the car that my guys brought. And then we got to the race and we just struggled. Being in traffic and on restarts is where we really struggled.

So we had some good meetings this week. We’re trying to figure out how we set the car up between practice and qualifying and the race so that we don’t miss it like that, because on Saturday we felt like we had a top six or seven car, and so that was a little bit of a bummer. However, all in all in all, it was good to have a good Saturday. We struggled on Sunday, but we fought until the end. We were running 30th at one point and got back to 21st or 22nd or wherever we finished, but it’s part of it. You can’t have good things all the time.

Stenhouse felt he had a good car in Kansas – until the race rolled around. Motorsport Images

Q: You guys took the measure of a lot of good teams and a lot of good drivers to make it into the playoffs didn’t you? That has to mean a lot to the entire No. 47 team?

RS: Yes, it means a lot to us. I mean, our goal last year was to make the playoffs. We fell short and we just didn’t have really good runs. This year, same goal: Make the playoffs and get better at the tracks and we struggled at last year. And we’ve done that. Obviously, winning Daytona was huge, but we were good enough throughout the regular season to make the playoffs whether we had that win or not.

But that was was important to us, as well. Now we’ve got a really good shot going into Bristol this weekend. It’s my favorite race track. We’ve finished second there three or four times in the Cup car and then once or twice in the Xfinity car. It’s been a good racetrack for us, and so we’ve still got our hopes up that the playoffs aren’t over. We’re excited for the challenges ahead. Really, really happy with what we’ve accomplished. so far and we have still get eight races left to accomplish more. That is what is important to us, as well. Eight races is a lot of races left to try and capture more good wins.

Q: The 16.9 average finishing position number you have earned thus far during the 2023 Cup season is a major point of pride for you and the team, isn’t it?

RS: It is. That was one thing that we wanted to be better. We wanted to have, like, a 15th-place average finish. We’re all over it. You know, we got some good races coming up where we can lower that back down I think and get it under 15. So that’s our goal, for sure.

Q: Prior to the season beginning, both Mike Kelley and yourself said that you guys no longer wanted be a mistake-prone team. You guys have made major strides with that.

RS: Yeah, our cars have been holding up, you know? We haven’t had any major issues there. The guys have been doing a good job. I’ve limited my mistakes on pit road. I still made too many than what we need, so there’s those things to clean up there, which will help us next year because everybody’s getting better. And I think that’s what we’re excited about moving forward, as we know that we easily have five races where we can really clean things up and our season can end up looking even way better than where we’re at now. And so that’s exciting for us.

Q: And you’re a Daytona 500 champion. The little No. 47 team that could, huh?

RS: Hey, that’s something that’s been nice. They can’t take that away from you and I’m super thrilled about that. Hopefully we can put together a good race this weekend. It’s not a big team. It’s small. We don’t spend the most money, but we got a lot of good racers that work together. They work really hard and they believe in each other. That’s something that Mike Kelly has really brought to the table for us. We’re making sure that leadership is there. We know we might not be the best all the time, but we’ve got people that believe in each other.

Story originally appeared on Racer