Friday, April 13, 2012
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins O'Reilly 300
By David Stein
FORT WORTH, Texas -- After bizarre lighting problems and a wild late restart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took home his second win in the first six races of the Nationwide season at the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday.
While most of the pack went in to get their last set of tires during a late caution, Stenhouse Jr. stayed in the pack.
"[Crew chief Mike Kelley] decided to go with no changes on that last pit stop, which I wasn't fond of, but he knows what he's doing," Stenhouse Jr. said. "That last restart was crazy. I think I spent the whole caution praying for a good restart."
Owner Jack Roush has had some good luck in the Lone Star State. The win was the fourth in a row for Roush Fenway Racing at Texas Motor Speedway.
"First thing I want to say is God bless Texas," Jack Roush said laughing after the race. "Texas has been really good to us."
In the race's second year under the lights, a few of them weren't quite cooperating. Some of the track lights were malfunctioning around the third turn, causing two cautions and a red flag in the 163-172th laps.
Race officials said it was a problem with one of the breakers, but Stenhouse Jr. didn't seem to mind.
"We went a few laps through there and I thought it was fine. Some people had different opinions," Stenhouse Jr. said. "It was probably safer to stop it and get it back going."
Paul Menard led for 100 laps, but couldn't hold on for a win. In the final laps, Menard went for one last push on the outside of Stenhouse Jr., but got caught in the middle when Denny Hamlin made the track three-wide.
The win moves Stenhouse Jr. into second in the Nationwide Series standings, four points behind Elliott Sadler.
"As soon as you get in the middle of a restart, you lose all of your momentum," Menard said. "I just feel like we let them get away with it."
Rookie driver Austin Dillon's crew also took the gamble not to change tires to try for a bigger lead. He ended up falling back to sixth after the red flag in the 176th lap. After another caution, he opted out of getting new tires again to try and keep his position. He ended up moving into fifth, the highest-finishing rookie.
"We're very proud of that finish, especially with less tires than the other guys out there," Dillon said.
Danica Patrick made a great late move with some new tires to move from 16th into eighth, her best finish of the year.
The action at TMS continues with the Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night.