Restrictor plate tracks have been very good to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2017.
Stenhouse grabbed the first victory of his Cup Series career at Talladega in May and passed David Ragan with just over a lap to go in Saturday night’s race at Daytona for his second-straight restrictor plate track win.
“This validates what we did at Talladega,” Stenhouse said.
Ragan and Ty Dillon restarted the race with two laps to go on the front row and Ragan shot to the lead. But as the field bunched up behind him on the backstretch, Ragan decided to block Dillon and the high lane and left the bottom open for Stenhouse entering turn 3.
Stenhouse proceeded into the corner unimpeded and took the win. He’s now one of just four drivers in the Cup Series in 2017 to have multiple wins. Clint Bowyer finished second and Paul Menard finished third.
“I missed my mark a bit coming to the white [flag],” Ragan, who finished sixth, said. “I zigged when I should have zagged. It’s tough to block two or three lanes coming to the white flag. I missed it on that run.”
Saturday night’s race at Daytona was an absolute crashfest with 14 cautions. Race win favorites Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were both taken out in crashes and most of the drivers near the front of the field in the final laps were winless in 2017. And with a win netting a driver a berth into NASCAR’s playoffs, it seemed likely that a driver who wasn’t already in the playoffs would clinch at Daytona.
A win from Dillon or Ragan would have especially upset the field. Seven of the top 12 drivers in points entered the race without a win. A win from a driver outside the top 20 would mean that a winless driver could be just outside the top 10 in points and miss the playoffs entirely.
That’s still possible. But Stenhouse’s win decreases those odds significantly. And it establishes him as one of the best plate racers in NASCAR and a driver who could be a sleeper title contender when the fall comes around.
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