Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s 2022 season has been a struggle in recent months. The 34-year-old opened up the year by coming close to emerging victorious at the Daytona 500 but instead crashed out late. Undeterred, Stenhouse backed up the performance by finishing in the top ten at Fontana, a much better result than the 20th he scored there last year. It was his best result at the speedway since his top five in 2016.
These stout early season performances were an early sign of strength for the newly focused one-car operation of JTG Daugherty. Yet, following this result, Stenhouse’s season collapsed. Over the following eight events, Stenhouse had an average finish of just 28.87. This string of dismal outings pushed him out of the top thirty in the standings, spiraling back to 31st, ahead of only one other full-time entry.
Stenhouse entered Dover knowing he needed a good result, but history had not necessarily been behind him at this venue. In Stenhouse's prior attempts at the track, he had only three top tens in 18 starts. One of which was in the JTG no.47 car.
The weekend started slow but steady for Stenhouse, as he remained incident-free in both practice and qualifying. In the short practice session, he logged the 20th fastest time, and he qualified the car in 15th, which was his best qualifying result since race number three at Las Vegas.
More than anything, Stenhouse had to have a clean, trouble-free race. He finished just outside the top ten in stage one and climbed up to the fifth spot by the end of stage two. In the final stage, he got by Ross Chastain for the second spot and began trying to hunt down Chase Elliott for the win. While he was unable to catch the Hendrick driver, he did finish the race in the second position, a fantastic, and much-needed turnaround for both Stenhouse and JTG Daugherty.
While Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has not found victory lane since he joined JTG Daugherty back in 2020, he has logged a runner-up finish with them in all three of their seasons together. In 2020, he finished second at Talladega, in 2021, at the Bristol Dirt race, and in 2022, this weekend at Dover. And even though both driver and team must certainly be pining to capture a checkered flag together, within the context of this year, a second-place surely must feel good.