With the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season set to conclude this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is set to achieve a milestone start of his own. By competing in this weekend’s Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway, the driver of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will reach career start No. 400 in NASCAR’s premier series.
A native of Olive Branch, Mississippi, Stenhouse made his inaugural presence in the Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 in May 2011. By then, he was campaigning on a full-time basis for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series and served as an interim competitor for his Xfinity teammate Trevor Bayne in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Fusion. Starting in ninth place, Stenhouse recorded an 11th-place finish in his Cup Series debut.
The following season and after winning his first Xfinity Series championship, Stenhouse, who remained in the Xfinity circuit to defend his title, made four starts throughout the 2012 Cup Series season and in the No. 6 Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing. His first start occurred during the 54th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, where he rallied from being involved in a late multi-car wreck to finish 20th. He proceeded to finish a season-best 12th at Dover before finishing 35th and 39th, respectively, during his next two starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway and at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
After winning his second consecutive Xfinity Series championship in 2012, Stenhouse was promoted to the Cup Series to pilot Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 17 Ford Fusion on a full-time basis, where he replaced the 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth as Kenseth moved to Joe Gibbs Racing. Stenhouse’s rookie Cup campaign commenced with a 12th-place finish in the 55th running of the Daytona 500.
He proceeded to record his first Cup pole position at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September, six top-15 results and 18 top-20 results throughout the first 25 scheduled events. Despite not making the 2013 Cup Series Playoffs, the Mississippi native notched his first top-10 career result in the Cup circuit by finishing in 10th place during the regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway. He then finished eighth during the Playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway the following weekend before achieving his first top-five finish in the form of a third-place run at Talladega Superspeedway in October five races later. Managing two top-20 finishes during the final three-scheduled events, Stenhouse capped off his rookie Cup Series season in 19th place in the final standings and claimed the Rookie-of-the-Year title over Danica Patrick. Overall, Stenhouse achieved a pole, one top-five result, three top-10 results, 35 laps led and an average finishing result of 18.9.
The following season, Stenhouse commenced the 2014 Cup season by finishing seventh during the 56th running of the Daytona 500. Three races later, he notched a career-best runner-up result behind teammate Carl Edwards at Bristol Motor Speedway in March. He would then endure a difficult regular-season period that included only three additional top-10 results during his next 22 starts as he did not make the 2014 Playoffs. During the Playoffs, Stenhouse’s low point occurred when he did not qualify at Talladega. Managing a total of five top-20 results during his final nine starts of the season, with his best result being 15th at Martinsville Speedway, Stenhouse concluded his sophomore Cup season in 27th place in the final standings and with an average-finishing result of 22.4.
The following two Cup seasons, Stenhouse accumulated a total of five top-five results, nine top-10 results, 37 top-20 results and nine laps led, with his best result being a runner-up finish behind Kevin Harvick at Bristol in August 2016. Despite not making the Playoffs during both seasons, he achieved a 25th-place result in the 2015 final standings with an average-finishing result of 24.3 and a 21st-place result following the 2016 season with an average-finishing result of 19.6. By then, he also surpassed 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premier series.
The 2017 Cup Series season was a breakout year for Stenhouse, who rallied from ending up 31st during the 59th running of the Daytona 500 amid a late multi-car wreck to finish fourth three races later at Phoenix Raceway amid a late pit strategy to remain on the track on old tires. After recording top-10 results in three of his next five starts, including a fourth-place run at Richmond Raceway, Stenhouse notched his second Cup career pole position at Talladega in May. He then proceeded to lead the first 13 laps and avoid a late multi-car pileup to overtake Kyle Busch on the final lap during an overtime restart and score his first career win in the Cup Series.
By then, he achieved the first Cup victory for Roush Fenway Racing since teammate Carl Edwards won at Sonoma Raceway in June 2014 and the first for Roush’s No. 17 entry since Matt Kenseth won at Kansas Speedway in October 2012. Seven races later, Stenhouse scored his second Cup career victory at Daytona in July after overtaking David Ragan during an overtime restart. Despite recording seven top-20 results during his next nine starts, the pair of superspeedway victories cemented Stenhouse and the No. 17 team into the 2017 Cup Series Playoffs, which was the first for the Mississippi native. Stenhouse then managed to transfer from the Playoff’s Round of 16 to 12 despite notching three consecutive top-25 results during the first Playoff round. With respective finishes of 13th, 26th and 29th throughout the Round of 12, Stenhouse was eliminated from title contention. Nonetheless, he capped off the 2017 season with four consecutive top-15 results before settling in a career-best 13th place in the final standings. By then, Stenhouse had tied his highest mark of top-five results accumulated in a Cup season to four while also recording career-high stats in top 10s (nine) and laps led (56) with a career-best average-finishing result of 17.1.
The following two seasons, Stenhouse went winless, but accumulated a total of four top-five results, eight top-10 results, 43 top-20 results and 242 laps led, with his best result being a third-place run at Talladega in October 2018. Despite leading 133 and 109 laps during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively, he did not make the Playoffs during both seasons as he ended up in 18th place in the 2018 final standings with an average-finishing result of 19.4 and 23rd in the 2019 final standings with an average-finishing result of 20.5. By then, Stenhouse also surpassed 200 Cup career starts.
In mid-September 2019, Roush Fenway Racing announced plans to replace Stenhouse with Chris Buescher for the 2020 Cup season. A month later, though, Stenhouse joined forces with JTG-Daugherty Racing to drive the No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE on a full-time basis for the upcoming Cup season. In his first start with JTG-Daugherty Racing, he notched his third Cup career pole for the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 after posting a pole-winning lap at 194.582 mph in 46.253 seconds. Despite leading 24 laps, Stenhouse was penalized late for advancing his position below the double yellow line boundary zone and was involved in a late incident during a green-flag pit stop cycle, which resulted in him finishing 20th.
He rallied the following weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by finishing third amid a late pit strategy for a two-lap shootout before finishing fourth at Charlotte in May and second at Talladega in June after being edged by Ryan Blaney by 0.007 seconds. Ultimately, Stenhouse recorded 13 top-20 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, which were not enough for him to make the 2020 Playoffs. With only six top-20 results recorded during the final 10 events on the schedule, including a 12th-place run at Texas Motor Speedway in October, Stenhouse concluded his first season with JTG-Daugherty Racing in 24th place in the final standings and with an average-finishing result of 22.6.
The following two seasons, Stenhouse achieved two top-five results, seven top-10 results, 36 top-20 results and 112 laps led, including a pair of runner-up finishes at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course in March 2021 and at Dover Motor Speedway in May 2022. After missing the Playoffs during both seasons, Stenhouse ended up 22nd in the 2021 final standings with an average-finishing result of 19.7, where he notched top-18 results during the first nine-scheduled events, before dropping to 26th place in the 2022 final standings with average-finishing result of 22.8. By then, he also surpassed 300 Cup career starts.
This season, Stenhouse’s fourth campaign with JTG-Daugherty Racing commenced on a high note with the driver leading the final 10 laps and fending off the field during two overtime attempts and amid two multi-car wrecks to win the 65th running of the Daytona 500 in February. The 500 victory made Stenhouse the 42nd different competitor to win the Great American Race in Daytona Beach, Florida.
He also recorded his third Cup Series career victory, his first since winning at Daytona in July 2017 and the second overall for JTG-Daugherty Racing since the time last he won at Watkins Glen International with AJ Allmendinger in August 2014. Managing a total of seven top-10 results and 18 top-20 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, Stenhouse secured a spot into the Cup Series Playoffs for the second time in his career. Following respective finishes of 16th, 23rd and 10th during the Round of 16, however, Stenhouse was one of four competitors to be eliminated from title contention.
He has since finished no higher than ninth place during his next six Cup starts and he is currently ranked in 16th place in this year’s driver’s standings entering the season-finale event at Phoenix.
Through 399 previous Cup starts, Stenhouse has achieved three victories, three poles, 22 top-five results, 54 top-10 results, 561 laps led and an average-finishing result of 20.5.
Stenhouse is scheduled to make his 400th Cup Series career start in the 2023 series finale at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 5, with the event’s coverage to occur at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.