It has been quite the start for Ricky Stenhouse and the JTG Daugherty Racing Team! For the second race in a row and the fourth time this season, the #47 car has found its way into the Top 10, and looking at the next five races, I have reason to believe that we will see more of the same and possibly Stenhouse's second win of the season.
The conclusion of the Martinsville race means we are now heading into race #10 of the season. Stenhouse's performance through the first nine races this season has given the JTG Daugherty Racing Team the best start in team history. A driver for JTG has never finished in the top 10 in four of the first nine races. Stenhouse has the opportunity this weekend in Talladega to finish in the top 10 in 50% of the races this season.
I hope that Daytona was a good indication of how Stenhouse will perform at super speedways for this season. He has proved to be a smart driver that takes shots when the opportunity presents itself, and at super speedways, that's the kind of driver you need.
The following races beyond Talladega are Dover, Kansas, Darlington, and Charlotte. These are four tracks that I am very excited about. At this point in the season last year, Stenhouse started to heat up. Dover, Kansas, Darlington, and Charlotte are all great tracks for Stenhouse. Last year, he finished in the top 10 in the four consecutive races that followed Talladega. So if he can finish in the top 10 at Talladega, he has a real chance to finish in the top 10 in seven consecutive races.
The team has been on it all year (we don't discuss Richmond). The #47 team is its best in the race's third stage. You can never expect the #47 car to get off to a hot start. Slow and steady wins the race. The team takes their time to feel out the car and adjust it to Ricky's needs to put themselves in a winning position at the end of the race.
This past weekend, we have to credit the top 10 finish to Crew Chief Mike Kelly, who decided to keep Stenhouse out of the pits with a little over 50 laps left when everybody else hit the pits. A gamble for sure, but one that paid off. We are starting to see the relationship between Crew Chief, Spotter, and Driver come to fruition.
I love listening to the scanner during the race because it gives insight into the team's strategy and emotions. Occasionally, when JJ Yeley, Corey Lajoie, or Ty Dillon decides to be dumbasses and not know how to move out of the way, Kelly will drop an F-Bomb here and there. It makes the race much more interesting, and my wife and I always get a good laugh.
The team has made some major adjustments to be able to put themselves in the position they are in. They have a great trio in Mike Kelly (Crew Cheif), Tab Boyd (Spotter), and Ricky Stenhouse (Driver), and together, top 10 finishes are becoming the standard at JTG Daugherty. To be a team with just one driver, you can't help but be impressed. They are putting something special together this year, and I believe the #47 car will find itself in victory lane again sometime in the next five races.