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May 7, 2012 8:39 AM

Stenhouse Finishes Third at Talladega; Claims NASCAR Nationwide Points Lead

Talladega, Ala. (May 6, 2012) – Talladega Superspeedway has not been kind to Ricky Stenhouse Jr, but Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 proved differently. For the final green-white-checkered flag finish, the Olive Branch, Miss. native pushed Cole Whitt in the final laps to battle the two-car tandem of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano for the lead. The duo was unable to complete the pass, as Stenhouse to settled for a solid third-place finish;  earning him the top spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver’s point standing with a five-point advantage over Elliott Sadler.  

The first green-white-checkered attempt resulted in a multi-car accident forcing NASCAR to display the red flag for 19 minutes before the final green-white-checkered attempt.  When the final green flag waved, Stenhouse restarted in the seventh position. He quickly found a drafting partner with Whitt and their tandem rocketed towards the front.  Once the duo got side-by-side with leaders Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, their progression stopped as they could not clear the duo in the top lane.

“Our plan on the final restart was to go with the No. 88,” Stenhouse said. “It was our best option. I didn’t want to get pushed at the line. I felt our No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford was fast pushing someone but struggled a little by itself. All in all it was a good day for our No. 6 team. It was cool working with Cole Whitt because we used to race sprint cars together. He was doing everything he could to stay in line with them and we just couldn’t get enough there. Coming to the line, I tried to swing out to get third. It was the best day for us here at Talladega.”

Stenhouse started the Aaron’s 312 in the No. 6 Cargill Beef/Blackwell Angus Ford from the outside pole after qualifying was rained out and the starting grid was set by the driver’s point standings. When the green flag waved, Stenhouse gradually fell back while searching for a drafting partner.  The first caution was displayed on lap 20. Stenhouse and crew chief, Mike Kelley, decided to stay out to lead a lap for the critical extra point in the championship standings before bringing the No. 6 Ford to pit-road for four fresh Goodyear tires and fuel.

The 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Champion received a blend violation due to moving up before exiting turn two forcing him to the tail end of the longest line. When the green flag waved, Stenhouse was credited with the 32nd position.

The field was getting too dicey for Stenhouse’s comfort, so he chose to ride near the rear of the field along with veteran driver, Kevin Harvick, until the racing calmed down and the duo could make their move to the front.

Stenhouse reported to crew chief, Mike Kelley, he struggled pushing when forced to push the car out front.  The No. 6 team went to work on lap 65 and made a wedge adjustment to help free up the No. 6 Cargill Beef/Blackwell Angus Ford.

The wedge adjustment worked, allowing Stenhouse to quickly maneuver up to the top-ten where he remained for the remainder of 117-lap race.

Stenhouse and the No. 6 team look forward to Darlington next Friday night where they finished in the 10th-position last year. The race will be Saturday, May 11 Darlington Raceway. Coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2.

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