Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ‘Gave It All’ In Bristol As He Finished Second While Honoring Bryan Clauson

by August 22, 2016

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ‘gave it all’ he had as he raced from two laps down to finish second in Sunday’s rain-delayed Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In a touching tribute to his late friend and dirt, open-wheel and stock car racer, Bryan Clauson, Stenhouse Jr.’s Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Fastenal Ford took on 500 laps at the half-mile oval with Clauson’s 2008 NASCAR XFINITY Series Fastenal paint scheme and his name above the window. Stenhouse Jr. and fellow competitor Kyle Larson, also donned metallic pink helmets featuring autism awareness designs, a cause that Clauson was incredibly passionate about.

Clauson lost his life on August 7, after being involved in a USAC midget car crash on August 6 at the 39th annual Belleville Midget Nationals. The loss of the dedicated, successful racer shook the racing world, especially drivers such as Stenhouse Jr., who began their racing careers sliding on dirt alongside of Clauson.

Stenhouse Jr. took a moment to reflect on the loss of his good friend after coming up only one spot short of taking his car to Victory Lane on Sunday night. He looks forward to attending Wednesday night’s ‘Celebration of Life’ race at Kokomo Speedway in Indiana, where Clauson will be honored by many members of the racing community.

“It’s definitely been tough, but I think going to Knoxville and being with his family, being with his fiancée and being with friends that we all had a great time together, you know, talking about it, talking through things and talking about all the good things that Bryan did and his organ donation really helped a lot of us really feel comforted with what he was still doing after the fact,” Stenhouse Jr. said.

“The service Wednesday ‑‑ I mean Thursday this past week was one of the toughest days that I think I had.  But again, just being there and telling stories really I think helped us all get through it.  His fiancée Lauren has been a rock getting everybody ‑‑ I mean, she’s supporting everybody even though you would think it would be the other way around.  She’s really helped a lot of people. We’re really looking forward to getting there Wednesday, and again, just being with all the racing family that we were able to always be around.”

Taking off on Saturday night in the 25th position, Stenhouse fell to two laps down early in the race and was hit with a speeding penalty on lap 87. He battled his way to the lead lap, where from there; he made the top line work on the track in order to pass cars up to the second position. Stenhouse Jr. held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin in the final laps of the event, but race-leader, Kevin Harvick, opened up a wide lead and with no cautions in the final laps, Stenhouse Jr. was forced to settle for his runner-up finish.

“Yeah, it was tough,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “We didn’t have the car exactly where we needed it to be to start the race, went two laps down, wasn’t real sure we were going to be able to get back on the lead lap. We had some really good timely cautions. Nick (Sandler, crew chief) made a lot of great changes to get our car better, and that was really the thing that turned us around was the good adjustments on pit road. We made a lot of them.

“Really good team effort. I really wanted to park in victory lane for Bryan and his family, but we just came up one spot short. I thought we were matching the 4 car  (Kevin Harvick) lap for lap there at the end, just starting 6th he kind of stretched it out on me, and I wasn’t able to really make a run at it.

Sunday night’s run at Bristol Motor Speedway matched Stenhouse Jr.’s career-best finish, a second-place finish at the same track in the spring of 2014. While Stenhouse Jr. wanted to capture his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory on Sunday night, he acknowledged the bigger picture of his emotional weekend.

“I know Bryan was watching and wanting us to win tonight, and we gave it all we had,” Stenhouse Jr. said.

Photo Credit: Tyler Goodson