Top Dog: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Kansas has become famous for many things. Whether it is “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Patrick Mahomes finding Travis Kelce in the end zone, or that original Kansas City barbecue sauce, Kansas Speedway is on that list for motorsports fans.
No matter your favorite barbecue sauce (mine is Memphis-style, preferably), the Advent Health 400 (May 7) had all the flavors. There was some sweetness, some smokiness here and there, and plenty of spicy action during and after the race.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came out on the optimal side of things, building onto a strong year with a 12th-place finish at a track that would appear to fit his taste.
Stenhouse had to immediately overcome an obstacle after he had to start at the rear of the field due to changing the water temperature gauge. By lap 40, he had driven to 20th, but slipped back outside the top 20 and went one lap down following a pit stop cycle. Stenhouse finished stage one in 25th, one lap behind.
Stage two was not much better as the Olive Branch, Miss. native was mired outside the top 25. His crew threw major adjustments at the car during the stage, with his break coming on lap 137. A caution flew that allowed the No. 47 to take the wave around with a 22-lap sprint to the stage end, where he wound up 21st.
Thanks to a late pit stop in stage two, Stenhouse stayed out during the stage break, allowing him to gain track position and lining him up in 12th for the restart.
The track position was a welcome sight for Stenhouse, who hung around 10th-14th throughout a flurry of cautions in the final stage. The restarts allowed Stenhouse to display his aggression and make some big moves to gain spots, hovering around 13th for the late run. Stenhouse would make a pass for 12th with just under 20 to go and took that to the finish.
While Kansas presents the wide grooves and progressive banking that allow Stenhouse to rim-ride, it hasn’t necessarily been kind to him, with Stenhouse only having one top 10 there. However, it is his second finish of 12th or better in the last three races there and in the larger picture, puts another notch down in a year of consistency for the JTG-Daugherty Racing driver.
In the past five races, Stenhouse’s worse finish is 15th. His 14.1 average finish is on pace to be a career high, and convincingly his highest at JTG-Daugherty. That average finish tops the current mark of former champions Kyle Larson (16.8), Brad…