*Exhales* My ability to remain optimistic is dwindling with each race that passes on with JTG Daugherty Racing. I'm holding onto whatever I can to still genuinely believe this team could be a Top-10 finisher each week. This past weekend in Richmond put my stomach in knots.
JTG Daugherty Racing did not have a good weekend, and this is a race I'm ready to put behind me. The weekend started with a comparatively horrible practice. Stenhouse would finish practice 32/37 in lap time, 0.672 seconds behind practice leader Kyle Busch. Qualifying was the same story. Again, finishing 32/37, but this time he would finish 0.441 seconds behind pole winner Ryan Blaney. So, a little bit of progress here.
Luckily for Stenhouse fans, the actual race would not be as bad as practice or qualifying. Stage one for most of these races is why I have stayed optimistic because when the car is running well and the driver is not tired, we get what we got in stage one of this race for an entire race. Quietly, Stenhouse would spend Stage one moving through the field to finish in the 21st position.
To start stage two, Stenhouse would start in 22nd. According to JTG Daugherty Racing's Twitter page (@JTGRacing), the car was tight in the corners. This likely is the reason Stenhouse dropped from 22nd to 27th. He would fluctuate between 26th and 27th for the rest of the second stage, finally finishing in 27th.
In the final stage, on lap 246, Stenhouse would make contact with Cody Ware, sending Ware into the Wall. From there, Ricky would not have much movement in the field and would finish the race in 28th. Another disappointing week for JTG Daugherty Racing.
This weekend the Cup Series travels to Martinsville. Stenhouse has finished in the Top-20 seven times of his last ten races at the historic speedway. The last five weeks have been disappointing for the team. They have not found themselves in the Top-20 since the WISE Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway several weeks ago due to engine issues and wrecks.
In an interview with NBC Sports, team owner Brad Daugherty acknowledges the issues within the team and expresses his frustrations with the lack of success they have had this season. However, he seems optimistic that the team will get it together and begin putting together a solid run as we move out of the season's first quarter. There is plenty of racing to catch up and into playoff contention.
Still holding onto hope, the worst should be behind us at this point of the season. Two wrecks and three engine issues are unlikely to repeat in the next seven races. JTG Daugherty, while painfully sitting at 28th in the season's point standings, does have basically nowhere but up to go from here. They have to show out with their new Louisiana Hot Sauce paint scheme!