Stenhouse wins Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Roush Fenway driver pulls off second straight superspeedway triumph

Jasen Vinlove—USA Today Sports
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. poses with girlfriend and driver Danica Patrick after winning the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claimed his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory and his second of the season Saturday night when he took the checkered flag in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.”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!”Stenhouse took his final lead on an overtime restart, getting a push from Michael McDowell. Clint Bowyer, though, got up to second on the final lap to take runner-up honors. Paul Menard finished third, while McDowell held on to finish a career-best fourth. Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.”Wow, what a night,” Bowyer said. “A fun race. … 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 (stinks). 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.”The race was attrition-filled, with the yellow flag waving 14 times, a record for the July race at Daytona. Early-race cautions came mostly as results of blown engines or stages ending, but later cautions came for wrecks, including the 13th caution of the race with less than 10 laps remaining.That wreck resulted in a red flag with six laps remaining after Kyle Larson’s car got airborne and Danica Patrick’s caught fire.”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 yellow flag waved for the final time after a restart with three laps remaining in the scheduled distance when Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones spun and sent the race into overtime.More than a quarter of the 40 cars that started the race failed to finish and more than half were involved in at least some degree in an on-track incident. Drivers retiring from the race early included pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr.After going two laps down early because of a tire problem, Earnhardt eventually got back on the lead lap and raced back into the top 10 before being a part of a five-car wreck that brought out the ninth caution of the race 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 (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 OK.”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.”With the high number cautions that littered the race, pit strategies varied throughout the race. Regulars up front throughout the second half of the race were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and series rookie Daniel Suarez, but Kenseth was out of the race after involvement in the wreck that brought the 13th caution.Brad Keselowski, who led 32 laps in dominating the first 40-lap stage of the race, was also among those who retired early. He fell out of the race after spinning and hitting the wall on lap 116.Matt Kenseth was the leader at lap 80, the halfway mark and the end of stage two of the 160-lap race.Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin was second at the end of stage two.After pitting under green on lap 16 because his right-rear wheel was secured by only on lug nut after a previous yellow-flag caution, Hamlin and Jones pitted under green on lap 37 and cycled to the top-two positions when everyone else pitted under yellow after stage one.Hamlin and Jones led laps early in the second stage, and Hamlin was up front for another restart past lap 60. He was joined up front by Kenseth, who had taken the lead by the time a caution came out on lap 70 for a multi-car crash that started with another JGR driver, Kyle Busch, getting turned.Other drivers collected in the wreck included points leaders Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.Earnhardt lost the lead to Chase Elliott on the first lap, and then Keselowski moved into the lead early. Earnhardt was back up front late in the stage, battling Keselowski for the lead.A few laps into the second stage, Earnhardt got into the wall with a flat tire, sustaining significant damage to his car. Larson’s car also received damage in the melee, but the race remained green.