Daytona 500 win breaks recent struggles for Stenhouse, JTG-Daugherty
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG-Daugherty Racing capped off years of hardship and hard work with a win in Sunday’s 65th Daytona 500.
Stenhouse and JTG-D won in their 12th and 15th attempts, respectively. They started 31st but Stenhouse made it from the rear to the front twice on a day where track position was essential.
The second time was after a speeding penalty under green, followed by a miraculous caution that allowed him to move from 22nd to 4th within 11 laps.
In the first overtime, Stenhouse moved from 6th to 1st and fended off a challenge from Joey Logano to win the Daytona 500 under caution in double-overtime.
Stenhouse broke a 199-race winless streak, dating back to the July 2017 Coke Zero Sugar 400, also at Daytona.
JTG-Daugherty Racing also broke a 302-race winless streak, dating back to their first win as an organization in August 2014 at Watkins Glen.
GETTING TO THE 500 WIN
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s NASCAR career has been defined by bursts of promising speed here and there.
With Roush, he won the 2011 and ’12 Xfinity titles after nearly being fired for wrecking so many cars as a rookie in 2010. In those two championship years, Stenhouse won 8 races – many of them featuring close battles with Cup drivers.
Then, in Cup, he struggled for four years until he broke out with 2 wins and a Round of 12 berth in 2017.
In 2018 and ’19, however, his performance slumped enough for Roush to let him go for 2020. JTG-Daugherty picked him up and, again, Stenhouse showed hope but never a consistent season from start-to-finish or even a win.
JTG-D has also experienced similar glimmers of hope and chances at wins since they won in 2014, but haven’t elevated into a weekly contender for wins.
Above all else, the organization battled outside factors, like the COVID pandemic. Co-owner Tad Geshickter remarked that they had to go “back to Ramen noodle cups and sleepless nights” at the beginning of the pandemic.
“COVID was not a good time for a tem of our size. There was a lot of back and forth and people wanting to change contracts, and it was a tough two years,” Tad Geshickter said. “During COVID, there were lines at the gate and people saying, ‘hey, we could buy your charter and we want to grow our team,’ and we all talked about it. But we all decided it was not the right thing to do.”
Through it all, Kroger stuck behind JTG-Daugherty – and Tad and Jodi Geshickter didn’t give up on Stenhouse.
“Personally, I feel like he’s got the spirit of a winner and I like what he represents as a person. I see flashes of brilliance in what he does. I felt like he could do it. I felt like he could get the job done, and I never questioned that,” co-owner Jodi Geshickter stated.
“There are not many drivers in this series that would do the work that Ricky Stenhouse does every day behind the scenes that no one sees – appearances in front of grocery stores to trips to corporate headquarters. He’s a workhorse, and someone that believes in you that hard, you’re going to keep believing back in them, too,” Tad Geshickter added.
In the last four years, the Daytona 500 winner has gone on to perform well after the win.
Whether it’s Michael McDowell scoring two top-10s in the two races after the 2021 Daytona 500, Austin Cindric scoring a pole at Auto Club in 2022 or Denny Hamlin following each Daytona 500 win up with Championship 4 berths in 2019 and 2020, each of them provide an outline for what the No. 47 team could do.
The team has hope in crew chief Mike Kelley, who worked with Stenhouse during his two Xfinity championship years. More recently, Kelley worked behind the scenes at JTG-Daugherty.
Since 2020, Stenhouse only has 7 top-10 finishes on speedways in his No. 47 Chevrolet but Kelley and the team see more behind the scenes. They also believe they have the right personnel lined up to do well this year.
“Mike has moved the needle on where this race team is at. Like I said, the resources I feel like we have now, there’s still a lot left to prove that we can go be competitive on all racetracks,” Stenhouse said. “We do feel like mile-and-a-half racetracks are probably our bread and butter right now with this race car, but we know that we’ve got a lot of work left to do on the short tracks.”
“The folks from Kroger stick behind us and everyone just keep believing. We are able to get Mike [Kelley] more of what he needs, and it all gets better,” Tad Geshickter said.
While JTG-Daugherty’s numbers may not stand out, the equipment is there – and it surprised Stenhouse when he joined the organization in 2020.
“I went to JTG Daugherty Racing, and honestly I was surprised at how much nice equipment and how they ran things and how much of the car they actually built. Now for us to kind of take that next step, we’ve got more help from Chevrolet, we’ve been in the simulator way more in this off-season than we were all of last year. I think that’s going to be a huge help for us, as well,” Stenhouse said.
Outside of Daytona and Talladega, Auto Club Speedway boasts Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s best average finish (17.6) at an active track (minimum five starts). Last year, Stenhouse finished 10th at Auto Club.
Prior to then, the last top-10 finish at Auto Club for Stenhouse and JTG-Daugherty was the 2016 race. Stenhouse finished 5th while A.J. Allmendinger finished 8th for JTG-Daugherty.
While Stenhouse has decent numbers at Auto Club Speedway, the track isn’t a particular standout for him or JTG-Daugherty. However, it will be the first time we’ll get a glimpse at if JTG-Daugherty’s off-season moves could result in improved performance.
The Pala Casino 400 goes green just after 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: FOX; Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
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