April 09, 2023:  at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (HHP/Chris Owens)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

Stenhouse Embraces Underdog Role

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. knows that he and his JTG Daugherty race team are underdogs entering the NASCAR playoffs and he is not shying away from that label.

“We definitely are. Obviously, all the powerhouse teams we’re going up against are manufacturer teams,” Stenhouse said during media day on Wednesday. “Definitely an underdog, but I think we like our role. All 40 of us at the team, we like where we are. We have great partners behind us, and great fans. I’ve seen a lot of fans that are pumped up about what they feel like we can do. Hopefully, we can go prove all those people right.”

Stenhouse, who earned his playoff spot by winning the Daytona 500, has completed more than 98-percent of the laps this season, which is a huge improvement over last year.

“I think the biggest thing for me is it all comes down to your race car,” said the driver of the No. 17 Chevrolet. “I feel like my guys are doing a really good job of giving me cars that I’m comfortable with. I’m not trying to take a 25th place car and run 15th with. That is where a lot of finishing the laps and completing the races, just making our bad races less bad.

“We’ve had off weekends just trying to get the most out of that, not necessarily behind the wheel, but letting the team pick a different strategy, make more adjustments and things like that. It’s helped us, and it’s helped me and my mindset of just getting it to the finish line and see what happens. So, just better cars makes it easier for the driver.”

Stenhouse acknowledged he could feel the pressure of the playoffs, but remains realistic about his team’s chances.

“There is. There is a different feeling,” he said. “If we do our job, I feel like we can transfer through rounds. Realistically, I don’t know if I’m just like, ‘Hey we’re going to make the final four.’ For me, that’s just thinking way too far ahead. We’ll ta

June 03, 2023:  at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. (HHP/Chris Owens)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Chris Owens photo)

ke this series of races and focus on those and figure it out. We’ll see where we end up after Bristol and figure out from there on out.”

Stenhouse said he and his Mike Kelley led team have set goals for the playoffs.

“I think we’ve got targets on how many points we want per race when it’s all said and done, when all 10 (races) are over,” Stenhouse explained. “If we hit those goals, wherever that shakes out, it shakes out. We did that in the regular season. We had a goal of getting a certain amount of points throughout every single race, and we were able to accomplish that. We felt like we had a successful regular season.

“That’s something that us and the team, we put together,” Stenhouse added. “We had big meetings about it yesterday, and I like where we are, and I like the things we’re looking to accomplish. Wherever that shakes out, that shakes out.”

Stenhouse has three tracks in mind, beginning this weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway that fit well with his team and his driving style.

“I think Darlington Kansas and Bristol are all three good race tracks for us that I feel we’re capable of running inside the top-10 at all three of those,” he said. “I think they would go in order the way they are. Darlington is probably the least of the best tracks for us, but I feel strong about all three of them. Bristol, being my favorite by far. I feel really good about the first round.”

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