By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
Has anyone come further in this sport in the past three years than Ricky Stenhouse Jr.? Early in his rookie season (2010) his stock was so low, that many were wondering when – not if – Jack Roush would send him packing back home to Mississippi.
Roush insisted that he believed in Stenhouse, and this confidence is all Stenhouse seemingly needed to turn things around. In the second half of his rookie season he did a 180-degree turn. Friday night in Texas he continued to write the 2012 chapter of what looks to be a promising NASCAR career.
Nearly all night long in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the car to beat. There was a 100 lap stretch in the middle of the event where Paul Menard had the race in his grasp, but by the end of the 300-mile race Stenhouse would put the rest of the field in a headlock, and he wouldn’t let go. Stenhouse led a total of three times for 68 laps during the 200 lap race, and he held off a late charge by Denny Hamlin to win the race. In victory lane Stenhouse talked about holding off Hamlin.
“Yeah, Denny is a great race car driver and I know when I am up there racing with those guys that I have my work cut out for me. They raced me clean and Paul Menard raced me clean all night long and it was a lot of fun up there racing with those guys. You can learn a lot from them. Whew! We finally got a cowboy hat at Texas. I love coming here. We finally finished off a race.”
This race marks Stenhouse’s fourth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, his second of 2012, and his first-ever at Texas Motor Speedway. In winning this race Stenhouse stretches Roush-Fenway Racing’s winning streak at TMS to four races. Also in winning Stenhouse knocked 12 points out of Elliott Sadler’s 16-point lead coming into the race, Stenhouse now trails Sadler by just four markers for the points lead.
Stenhouse is of course in defense of his 2011 Nationwide Series championship, but how long will it be before we see him as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? I asked him following Friday night’s race, and he referred me to his car owner, Jack Roush.
“We’ve got the decal for the top of the roof of that six car organized for Ricky as soon as we can find sponsorship for him, he’s good to go. In the meantime, the highest priority we have is to defend the championship in the Nationwide Series. But hopefully we can find sponsorship and have encouragement to run the six car with him next year, we’ll run some races before the year’s over in the six car — in the Cup car,” Said team-owner Jack Roush.
So sponsorship permitting, the future sure is bright for Mr. Stenhouse.
– Toby Christie is the lead Motorsports writer for Sicknissified.com, and he can be reached via twitter or email. Tweet him @Tobalical or email him at email@example.com. You can also find his work at TheFinalLap.com this weekend.