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NASCAR Cup: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins again

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway after winning the Coke Zero 400 on July 1, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway after winning the Coke Zero 400 on July 1, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. followed-up his win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last month with a win Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for his second-career win and second win of the season and to go two-for-three in the first three of four restrictor-place races this season.

“Wow, these guys,” Stenhouse said. I kept my Talladega car and told them to build a new one. They built a Fifth Third Ford that was really fast. We won the Firecracker 400! This is awesome! I have been coming here since 2008. I actually came in 2006 one time with Bobby Hamilton Jr. and it is cool to put it in victory lane and get our second win this year. I love it! Thank you to the fans for coming out here. Everyone at NASCAR. What a great weekend. America. 1776. We are the champs!”

Clint Bowyer got up to second on the final lap to take runner-up honors for the second-consecutive race.

“Wow, what a night,” Bowyer said. “A fun race. Our Mobil 1 Ford was strong. I got shuffled out on that second stage and that bummed me out. I wanted those stage points. It wasn’t that big a deal because I knew that we had a hot rod to get back up front. Man, it’s just every man for himself. You’re beating and banging Both sides are ground off my car. Good night. This bridesmaid deal sucks. I want to win. We’re in this business to win. That’s what Tony and Gene pay me to do. I’m proud of everyone on the Mobil 1 Ford team.”

Paul Menard finished third, Michael McDowell a career-best fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five.

The yellow flag waved 14 times, a record for the July race at Daytona, with two of those cautions coming in the final 10 laps, one resulting in a red flag with six laps remaining after Kyle Larson got airborne and Danica Patrick’s car caught fire. The other late-race caution sent the race into overtime.

“I was just up front there and doing what I could to stay up front,” Larson said.  The 38 (David Ragan) got to my inside and I saw that in my mirror and I kind of felt it a little bit because you can feel the air. I was just trying to leave him a little bit of room and I just moved up too high and ran across Ricky’s nose and I hate that I caused that wreck and I feel pretty bad about.  It was going to be an extremely good points day and we hurt that a little bit.”

The race was attrition-filled with more than a fourth of the 40 cars that started the race failing to finish and more than half sustained damage from at least one on-track incident. Most of the cautions for wrecks came in the second half, although the yellow flag waved six times in the first two 40-lap stages that made-up the first half of the race. Aside from the yellow flags that signaled the end of stage one and stage two, three of the other four cautions were for blown engines.

Among those retiring early from the race were Brad Keselowski, who dominated the first stage of the race by leading 32 of 40 laps, and pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt hit the wall as the result of a tire problem on lap 52 and went two laps down, but he eventually got back on the lead lap and raced back into the top-10 before getting collected in a five-car wreck around lap 106.

“As soon as we got our lap back, I knew anything was possible,” Earnhardt said. “We were just kind of drafting right back up there and I think the No, 4 (Kevin Harvick) got a flat. I had nowhere to go, but it was fun. We had a pretty strong car. We had some gremlins in there. I’m not sure what was going on with that, but we had the toe-in messed up. That first deal we brushed the wall a couple of laps earlier and I thought everything was okay. I came through the tri-oval and I had a right front going down and it was trying to spin out, so I was trying to lift, but there was really nothing I could do because there were so many guys behind me. We got into (turn) one and hit the wall. But the guys worked on the car; we got our laps back and was about to have some more fun – get back up in there and mix it up.  Then, that happened with the No. 4.”

Keselowski spun and hit the wall on lap 116.

Matt Kenseth was the winner in stage two after Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones combined to lead most of it. Hamlin and Jones were up front at the start of stage two as a result of pitting under green on lap 37, three laps before the conclusion of stage one. They cycled up to the first two positions when everyone else pitted under yellow between the first two stages. Hamlin’s lap-37 stop was his second green-flag stop. He was forced into an unscheduled stop when his team got only one lug nut tight on his right-rear wheel during a lap-10 yellow-flag pit stop.

Several drivers spent time up front in the third stage, or second half of the race, when pit strategies varied as a result of the high rate of cautions.

Finishing sixth through 10th were David Ragan, Brendan Gaughan, A.J. Allmendinger, Jones and Chris Buescher.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on July 2, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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