DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Daytona 500 polesitter hasn’t won in two decades, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is hoping to buck that trend during Monday’s rain-delayed conclusion to The Great American Race.
Stenhouse, who took the Busch Pole Award for the 62nd annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 9 in the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, led the first 20 laps Sunday afternoon before rain moved into the Daytona Beach area and washed any chance of completing the race away.
When action resumes at 4 p.m. ET, Stenhouse will lead the field back off under caution, hoping to continue his quest for a breakthrough Daytona 500 victory and the Harley J. Earl Trophy.
The last Daytona 500 pole winner to go on and reign victorious at the end of the 500-mile distance was Dale Jarrett in 2000, who drove Robert Yates’ No. 88 Ford Quality Care Ford to victory lane after leading 89 of the 200 laps that afternoon.
Jarrett made the winning pass of Johnny Benson with four laps to go, just before a frontstretch crash involving the No. 26 Ford of Jimmy Spencer led to a race-ending caution flag.
While Stenhouse is flying a different manufacturer than Jarrett was in those days, the Olive Branch, Miss., native’s Chevrolet looks to be dominant early – just as Jarrett’s Ford was 20 years ago.
Stenhouse’s 20 laps led on Sunday are already more than he led in last year’s Daytona 500 with Roush Fenway Racing, as well as more laps than JTG-Daugherty led in the whole 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season.
In fact, Stenhouse’s car has looked dominant going all the way back to Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona, where he paced a race-high 27 laps and led at the white flag before getting shuffled back to eighth at the finish line.
Could that speed lead to a Daytona 500 victory? It’s possible, said Stenhouse after his Duel Thursday.
“Our Camaro ZL1 1LE was really fast in the Duel. I thought we put ourselves in a great position for a win in that one and it was good to get myself into different positions,” Stenhouse said. “I felt like we pushed really well and I felt like I got pushed pretty solid. I thought we did everything we needed to do, it just looked like the 11 (Denny Hamlin) just couldn’t hang on right there at the end. He got me clear and I thought about moving up, but we worked so well together on the bottom that I tried to stick with it.
“All in all … that was a good first day. I’ve got a new spotter on the roof and we work really well together,” he added. “There were a lot of new pieces, so I’m glad we were able to come out and race hard.”
Stenhouse was leading a single-file train of five Fords at the time of the rain shower and subsequent red flag and postponement on Sunday, with Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski set to follow Stenhouse in the running order when the race is officially resumed.
The 62nd annual Daytona 500 continues Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET, live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.