This weekend’s race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway could be the last spot that we see a fluke winner during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. knows it. He’s well aware that Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race is likely his last chance to be a part of this year’s Cup Series playoff field. The Roush/Fenway Racing driver currently sits 21st in the points standings with three races remaining in the regular season. That’s not a lot of time to make up that much ground in the points. He’s 84 points behind.
So, the only other way to get into the postseason is to win. Bristol, is just the spot too.
Stenhouse may have three of his last four Bristol starts result in finishes of 14th or worse, including a 33rd place run in April, but prior to that, he was a stud on the concrete oval.
The Mississippi native had six top 10 finishes in a nine race (four year) span including two runner-ups. While he’s never led a lap in his No. 17 Ford at Bristol before, all he’s wanting to do is lead the final one on Saturday evening.
The top three teams in SHR, JGR and Penske may have won this race in each of the last 10 years but the team that won this race in four straight years prior to that was RFR.
If Stenhouse can win, just think about the playoff implications for others. Right now, the final playoff spot goes to Jimmie Johnson. If Stenhouse wins, it moves up to Clint Bowyer as that would move Johnson to the outside looking in and him battling with Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez to get back in and knock Bowyer out. It would certainly be the turning point that we’ve been looking for.