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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. "Building More Confidence" As Consistent 2023 Campaign Continues

BY EDDIE KALEGI


When Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his third career NASCAR Cup Series win in this February's Daytona 500, ending a winless drought of nearly six years, many viewed him as a guaranteed first round exit from the 2023 postseason. But the 35 year-old Olive Branch, Mississippi native is proving that the victory in the sport's most prestigious event was more than a fluke, as he rides the wave of arguably the hottest stretch of his career in NASCAR's top series, which now spans more than a decade.


Even without his Daytona 500 victory, Stenhouse enters Sunday's race at Pocono relatively comfortably in the top 16 points, sitting 14th, ahead of drivers like Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez, and just one stop behind Wallace's 23XI teammate Tyler Reddick. Barring a late-summer collapse and an unprecedented onslaught of new winners in the coming weeks, he is destined to make his first playoff appearance since 2017, the year where he earned his other two cup wins at Daytona and Talladega. He and JTG Daugherty Racing have amassed two top fives and six top tens over the first 20 races of 2023, already more than he had all of last season, a year where he finished 26th in the final standings.


"We've definitely performed better than we did last year on all racetracks," Stenhouse said. "Some of those racetracks that were the worst racetracks for us last year have been some of the best racetracks for us this year."


In addition to finding success where it never previously was, Stenhouse has had one of his cleanest seasons to date. He has failed to finish just once this season, better than ten of the 13 drivers he trails in points. "Winning the 500 has allowed us to go into every race since then a little looser," he said. "My team is building confidence in the setups they're putting in the race car, and I'm building more confidence in what I can do behind the wheel."


Stenhouse will roll of the grid from P22 for today's Highpoint.com 400, but his strong season, paired with impressive results at the track in recent trips, scoring three finishes of seventh or better in his last four tries at the tricky triangle, will make him a force to be reckoned with for sure.


Stenhouse came home 19th in last year's proceedings, the first race at the track with the Next Gen car, highlighting the tunnel turn as his kryptonite. "Getting through the tunnel turn, it's just a little rougher in this car, just a little rougher than what we were used to with the old car here."


He opted to run the middle lane through the turn last year, and is optimistic that he will find similar success this Sunday. "I felt like that was a little bit smoother for me, and I felt like I was able to carry a little bit more momentum through there."


It's hard to not think of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as a 'young buck' of the NASCAR Cup Series, recalling the days of him being the sport's hottest prospect, joining Roush Fenway Racing at the top level to team up with the likes of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. But time flies in NASCAR, and Stenhouse now sits tenth among active drivers in career starts, set to run his 385th cup race in Long Pond, Pennsylvania this Sunday. And after ten years in the series and a manufacturer switch, Stenhouse just might be having his best season to date, with the potential for even more success to come in the next three months.


Check out Motorsports Today's full interview with the driver of the #47 Chevrolet below, and follow us on Twitter @MtrsprtsToday for coverage of today's cup series race!




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