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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. returns to Bristol, site of best Cup finishes

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, is introduced prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2016 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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Three weeks ago Ricky Stenhouse Jr. felt the need to celebrate finishing 10th at Martinsville Speedway.

While it was by far his best finish at the short track, the Roush Fenway Racing driver returns this week to Bristol Motor Speedway, the track that’s given him the most to celebrate in his five years as a full-time Cup driver.

Stenhouse has only eight top-five finishes in 155 Cup starts, but three have come in “Thunder Valley.” Two of those are runner-up finishes.

The driver of the No. 17 Ford is eight months removed from the most recent one, when he finished 1.9 seconds behind Kevin Harvick in the rain-delayed night race. That was after Stenhouse rebounded from a pit speeding penalty and a two-lap deficit.

“After our weekend off, I’m ready to get back on track especially at one of my favorite tracks,” Stenhouse said in a press release. “We’ve had a lot of success at Bristol but keep coming up short one position. The key is to get your car turning through the center and being able to run both grooves. Like typical short track racing anything can happen, but if we can execute on pit road and stay out of trouble, then we should leave Bristol with another strong finish.”

Stenhouse called his Martinsville result “huge momentum” for the No. 17 team, which is still trying to give Stenhouse his first Cup win and Roush Fenway Racing its first series victory since 2014.

The momentum carried forward to the last race at Texas Motor Speedway, where Stenhouse finished a career-best 14th in his ninth start there. Three of the last four races, beginning with a fourth-place result at Phoenix Raceway, have seen Stenhouse earn career-best finishes at tracks.

If that trend continues this weekend in the Food City 500, Stenhouse would finally conquer a track that’s already been kind to him.

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