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  • Noah Cornelius

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Survives Chaos, Wins Longest Daytona 500 Ever

Veteran NASCAR Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. broke a 6-year winless

streak on Sunday by winning the 2023 Daytona 500. Stenhouse, whose last win came

at this very same track in 2017, barely beat out defending Cup Series champion Joey

Logano for the win following a controversial last lap caution that ended the race early.

This was both the first Daytona 500 win for Stenhouse, as well as his team JTG

Daugherty Racing, owned by Tad and Jodi Geschickter, and former NBA star Brad

Daugherty. For Stenhouse, he says his x-factor was an old friend: Crew Chief Mike

Kelley.


“Not winning since 2017, having struggles, ups and downs, to have somebody

like Mike, who when he took over the reins as soon as the season was over, it was,

‘hey, I know you can still get this done,’” Stenhouse remarked while speaking to the

press. “‘We’ve just got to give you the right opportunities. We know if we give you cars

capable of running up front, you can do that. We’ve proven that.’"


Kelley became Stenhouse’s crew chief in 2010 while the duo was at

Roush-Fenway Racing. Before Kelley, Stenhouse struggled in the NASCAR Xfinity

Series, then known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He started off his 2010 season

poorly with four crashes in ten races, but that changed when Kelley became

Stenhouse’s crew chief. Stenhouse would go on to win the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide

Series Rookie of the Year, then won back-to-back Nationwide Series championships in

2011 and 2012. Stenhouse then moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series, then known as

the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, continuing to race for Roush-Fenway Racing.


From 2013-2019, Stenhouse won two races with Roush-Fenway Racing, both in

2017. Ironically, his first two Cup Series wins both came on superspeedways: Talladega

Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway. Nevertheless, Stenhouse had been mired in mediocrity throughout his entire Cup Series career, and that followed him when he moved to JTG Daugherty Racing before the 2020 Cup Series season.


With his new team, Stenhouse began showing glimpses of greatness, recording

six Top 10’s and five Top 5’s, including two runner-up finishes. Yet, Stenhouse and JTG

Daugherty could not find any consistency to make the coveted NASCAR Playoffs in the

last 3 seasons. But, after winning the 2023 Daytona 500, Stenhouse and JTG are riding

high.


“We’re a small team. We’re not a super powerhouse team,” said Kelley, also

speaking to the media at Daytona. “We’re small. I think there’s 40, 45 employees that

work in our shop every day. But I have 45 people that believe in what we’re trying to

accomplish. We’re trying to get people to believe in Ricky Stenhouse again. We’re trying to get people to believe in myself and the vision that we have.”


This win locks Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs, which begins

in September. It also gives JTG Daugherty Racing just its second win since the team’s

inception fourteen years ago. But at the end of the day, far after the checkered flag

waved, this win is one that has already immortalized Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG

Daugherty Racing in NASCAR’s 75-year history.


Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty Racing look to continue their strong

start to the season this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in the Pala Casino 400.

Racing starts at 3:30 PM ET. Coverage begins at 2:30 PM ET on FOX, MRN, and

SiriusXM.

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