Stenhouse Jr.-Edwards clash doesn't materialize
March 16, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a plan. What he didn't have, or get, was an opportunity.
"I was thinking that I would use the bumper if the opportunity was there," the 26-year-old Roush Fenway Racing driver said after finishing second, under caution, to teammate Carl Edwards on Sunday.
Maybe he was kidding. Then again …
It was a freakish finish to a freakish race, this year's running of the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Rain delayed the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race nearly an hour and 45 minutes. Bad weather returned after 124 laps of the 500-lap race had been completed, halting action for another three hours and 18 minutes.
And it returned once again when an official in the flagstand, according to NASCAR, accidentally hit the manual override for the caution lights, turning them on.
Two laps seemingly remained. A window began to open for Stenhouse Jr. And then it suddenly slammed shut.
NASCAR officials in the tower, realizing the mistake, threw the yellow flag, froze the field and watched as rain began to soak the track.
It was sufficient enough to close the books on the 54th running of the event, Edwards eventually coasting across the finish line as officials rolled out the checkered flag along with the yellow.
"If you get the win, you're in the Chase and you can let the rest take care of itself later," Stenhouse Jr. said. "That's what I was really thinking if we went back to green.
" … I would have run it in there pretty hard, and he knows I would have. We've had a few races in the Nationwide Series where they came down to the wire like that, and we both drive really hard. I was thinking about doing whatever I could to win."
"Whatever" doesn't involve much when idling around the track at a not-so-brisk 30 mph.
"When it comes time to really charge for the checkered flag there are no team orders, there are no rules," said Jack Roush, co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing. "I expect them to race one another as they expect to be raced, not only with one another but with everybody in the garage.
"Ricky is as fierce a competitor as there is out there and if his car has the speed in it and he can get to the car in front of him, particularly (on) the short track, you'd bump-and-run and take the prize if you could. I'd be disappointed if he didn't have that in mind."
It was a career-best finish for Stenhouse Jr., last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year, topping last year's third-place finish in the fall race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Edwards, the fourth different winner in four races this season, said he knew what his teammate was thinking.
"It was going to be a battle," Edwards said. "I have a feeling if … knowing Ricky, probably neither one of us would have made it back to the start/finish line. It could have been that ugly.
"Aric probably would have been in a really good spot."
Edwards, Almirola, Denny Hamlin and Stenhouse Jr. had gained track position when the four opted not to pit under yellow during a caution at Lap 424.
"I thought we were coming on pretty strong when it was laying some more rubber, but after that rain delay (at Lap 124) it seemed to get kind of cold and didn't seem to be laying as much rubber for us," Stenhouse Jr. said. "We were just fighting the balance … a little bit loose, a little bit tight, never really could zone in on it, but Mike (Kelley, crew chief) made some good calls. We stayed out there and kept our track position and ended up second, so it was cool to have a one‑two finish for Roush Fenway."