Daytona notebook: Stenhouse Jr. ready to shake things up
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[February 17, 2018]
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ricky
Stenhouse Jr. simply wanted to make something happen.
But the driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was shocked at
how quickly the rear end of William Byron's No. 24 Chevrolet snapped
around when Stenhouse poked the nose of his Fusion to the inside
Byron's car in the first 150-mile qualifying race in Thursday
night's Can-Am Duel.
The Hendrick motorsports rookie was a victim of aerodynamics, and
when Stenhouse took the air off his car, Byron nosed into the
outside wall, forcing him to a backup car for Sunday's Daytona 500.
He'll join teammate and seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
champion Jimmie Johnson, a casualty of an earlier incident in the
same race, at the rear of the field for the Great American Race.
"I was really surprised at the 24, 'cause we were almost back on the
straightaway," Stenhouse said Friday during a question-and-session
with a handful of reporters in the Daytona media center.
"It was a little bit interesting that his car must have been that
loose, because we were hitting the tri-oval and back onto the
Later in the event, Stenhouse attempted to move to the inside of
David Gilliland's Ford, with a similar result. Gilliland, like
Byron, will start the Daytona 500 in a backup car.
For more than two years, a point of emphasis at Roush Fenway racing
has been the development of its superspeedway cars. That effort paid
off in a pair of Stenhouse victories at Talladega and Daytona last
With his car capable of running the bottom lane in the Can-Am Duel,
and with the Team Penske cars of Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Brad
Keselowski leading a freight train around the top, Stenhouse was
trying to pick his way forward -- but could find few allies on the
bottom of the track.
"The top lane is just so dominant," Stenhouse told the NASCAR Wire
Service. "It has been for a while. It takes a good group of cars to
get the bottom going. I think that's one of the biggest things we've
done at our company in the last two years is to work on our speedway
cars to get 'em where we can run the bottom.
"I felt like, for the first two or three years of my Cup career, I
couldn't run the bottom very good. I had to stay in the top lane to
keep my momentum up. I feel like I've been able to be on the
offensive side, now that I can run the bottom."
Based on their respective misfortunes, Byron and Gilliland may have
thought Stenhouse was a bit too aggressive. But Stenhouse was trying
to learn as much as possible throughout the course of the race.
"It was tough when all the Penske guys kind of had us all lined up,"
Stenhouse said. "I was just trying to get people to get to the
bottom with me and get double-file. I was kind of bored riding
around. I was trying to give the fans something they wanted to
watch, rather than just riding around."
Stenhouse finished fourth in the Duel behind Blaney, Logano and
Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. The excellent handling of his car and
his willingness to use it should make Stenhouse a factor in Sunday's
season-opening points race.
[to top of second column]
NO-SHOW FOR THE SHOWMAN IN THURSDAY'S FIRST DUEL
If Alex Bowman wants to shed a nickname he doesn't particularly like
-- "Bowman the Showman" -- he took a good first step in Thursday
night's first Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying race.
Locked into the top starting spot in Sunday's Daytona 500 by virtue
of his pole-winning performance, Bowman was a virtual no-show in the
qualifying race. After leading the field to green, Bowman steered
his No. 88 Chevrolet to the top of the track, dropped to the rear
and stayed there for the rest of the event.
This was all by design. With his starting spot assured, Bowman was
protecting his car for the Great American Race -- even if it meant
sacrificing a chance to earn points for a top-10 finish. Because he
didn't run in last Sunday's Advance Auto Parts Clash, Bowman will
start the Daytona 500 without any real competitive experience in the
Kevin Harvick provided a harsh analysis of Bowman's choice.
"Alex Bowman didn't learn anything today, in my opinion," Harvick
said. "They'll go out and practice (on Friday). Riding around
starting on the pole is great, but not knowing what your car is
going to do is a complete waste of time, in my opinion."
It's not completely true, though, that Bowman learned nothing. He
and his team spent the race practicing pit stops under NASCAR's new
rules, which have reduced the number of over-the-wall put crew
members from six to five -- thereby requiring a completely different
The pit-stop practice, and the information learned from it, could
benefit the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization.
In Friday's second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, Daniel
Suarez posted the fastest lap of Speedweeks so far, powering his No.
19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to an average speed of 203.179 mph in the
draft. Ryan Newman was second fastest at 202.945 mph, followed by
Michael McDowell at 202.867 mph. Suarez also was fastest in Friday's
first session with a lap at 199.840 mph. ...
On Friday, Austin Dillon joined the list of drivers who will start
the Daytona 500 in backup cars, bringing the total to eight. Though
Dillon finished sixth in Thursday night's Can-Am Duel qualifying
race, his car sustained enough damage to warrant rolling out the
backup. When the 20 (Erik Jones) crashed, he come across and knocked
(Dillon's) whole front end down and bent the front snout down," team
owner Richard Childress said. "That's where all the sparks were
--Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.
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