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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seeks consecutive top-10 finishes for first time since 2013

The NASCAR America crew looks at the surprising starts to the season for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon.

Three top-10 finishes in the last 10 Sprint Cup races might not seem impressive, but it’s a sign of progress for Roush Fenway Racing and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

“Over the last few years, we were doing a lot of work and the team was doing a lot of work, but we didn’t really feel any difference in the race cars and we didn’t see any speed difference in the race cars,’’ Stenhouse said. “Last year, going throughout the year, we could see a difference, and I think that’s the first time since I’ve been on the Cup side that I’ve actually felt a difference in the cars and continuing to get better.’’

Stenhouse seeks back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time since 2013 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- he placed 10th at Richmond and eighth at Chicagoland Speedway at the beginning of the Chase in 2013.

The 28-year-old Mississippi native, who is in his fourth full season in Cup, had nine finishes of 22nd of better in the final 11 races last year, including an eight-place finish at Dover and a ninth at Talladega.

To compare, the two-time Xfinity champion finished 22nd or better in five of the 16 Sprint Cup races before his season-ending stretch.

He opened this season with a 22nd-place finish in the Daytona 500. Stenhouse followed that at Atlanta with a 10th-place finish, his fourth top 10 since the start of last season.

“The engines ran great last week, the cars handled good and we didn’t have any failures, and I think that was a big key,’’ Stenhouse said of his Atlanta run. “Our pit stops were good. Everything that we’ve been working on at Roush Fenway has been to not make any mistakes and just be better in every aspect.’’

While Roush Fenway Racing can be pleased with some signs of success, that’s not enough to be satisfied.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go because we want to be back winning and we want to be running in the top five consistently,’’ Stenhouse said. “So I’m definitely happy with our top-10 last week, but … you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.”

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