At times, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. showed a lot of promise during 2018. While Roush Fenway Racing struggled to elevate their program - with a focus on the limitations of the No. 6 car - Stenhouse regular outpaced Trevor Bayne.
Toward the end of the season, Matt Kenseth began to score some solid runs in that team car, which is going to have a positive effect on the organization as a whole.
The most memorable event of the season for Stenhouse was the Coke Zero 400. In what certainly appeared to be a desperate state of mind, he triggered several incidents that were responsible for elimination of virtually half of the field while he skated through unscathed. He was finally eliminated in another incident that he did not cause (i.e. karma?), but not before drawing the ire of Kyle Busch.
Counter-intuitive as it may seem, that controversy might actually improve his results. Stenhouse was forced into the limelight and was forced to make a case for his belonging in the Cup series. He stood up to Busch; that boosted his self-confidence and gives his fans a reason to believe he will perform better in 2019.
The addition of Ryan Newman to the team is going to provide a better baseline during the weekend than he experienced with Bayne. Newman will not only be able to identify the problems with his car, but give an idea of how to fix them. That will slop over to the No. 17.
Stenhouse scored only five top-10s last year. Two of these came on the restrictor-plate, superspeedway of Talladega where dark horses are common.
Two of the remaining three top-10s came at Bristol Motor Speedway (a fourth in April) and Dover International Speedway (a ninth in October). The concrete high-banks have often been a solid place for Stenhouse. Fantasy players will want to make a note to watch him in those four races.
Stenhouse’s remaining top-10 came in the Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This might be the most meaningful statistic because it suggests he will be a factor on the other unrestricted, intermediate speedways. He finished just outside of the top 10 at Texas (November) and Kansas (May) with 11th-place finishes. A slight improvement in 2019 could make him the best value in most games.
Three Best Tracks
Bristol (11.3 in 12 attempts)
Talladega (13.4 in 12)
Chicagoland (18.2 in 6)
Three Worst Tracks
Martinsville (28.2 in 12)
Indy (27.5 in 6)
Sonoma (26.7 in 6)
Victories: None (Best finish = 3rd at Talladega II)
Top-fives: 3 (.083)
Top-10s: 5 (.139)
Top-15s: 12 (.333)
2018 Finishes at or above their rank? = 22 (61.1%)