By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Although Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won at Talladega Superspeedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ most recent restrictor-plate race, the driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford isn’t definitively locked into NASCAR’s playoffs – but the odds are heavily in his favor.
Assuming Stenhouse makes the playoff, however, he’ll start in a deep hole to Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson, who have accumulated 21, 16 and 13 playoff points, respectively.
Truex has won a whopping 11 stage points to go with his 10 playoff points earned from two victories. Stenhouse, on the other hand, has only the five playoff points earned from his Talladega win, and without improvement in that respect, he’ll start the playoffs at a disadvantage.
“You have to think about the playoffs and how far behind you are when you start the playoffs,” Stenhouse said. “You definitely want to get more stage points, and that’s a difficult thing to do when Martin and Kyle and those guys are taking them all. They’re doing what they have to do. It’s going to be a lot easier (playoff) for them.
“It’s definitely a priority for us to get stage wins. Here at Daytona is a good chance for us to play a little strategy, try and get a stage win and try and put ourselves in position to get a win. I think if we prioritize this weekend, it would probably be the win and get five more points instead of stage win and only getting a point.”
When it comes to races at non-plate tracks, the approach might change.
“That’s a concern of ours. Something that we’ve been talking about is to go out and get stage wins without really having a good car (using strategy). At our place, it’s just trying to get our car better where we’re capable of going out and winning stages.”