The night may have belonged to Dale Earnhardt Jr., but another Junior made the NASCAR Nationwide series record books at the Subway Jalapeno 250 Friday. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the brand new NASCAR Mustang to the podium, taking third place in its debut race.
Earnhardt piloted the specially painted No. 3 Chevy to the win after a late-yellow gamble kept him on the track while others pitted for fresh tires. The Impala wore the Intimidator’s famous number and equally well-known blue and yellow livery to honor the elder Earnhardt’s entry into the NASCAR hall of fame. Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in 2001.
How was your run?
“It was definitely not the best at the beginning. We worked on it a lot. We were just really loose on entry and pretty tight in the center, and we just kept working on it. Our guys got the Blackwell Angus Ford Mustang a lot better at the end and even on old tires that was the best we were. We could hold it wide open there.
“We were running with the 21 trying to get up with Joey and the guys in that lead pack, but the caution came out and it worked out to our favor. I thought we made the wrong call by staying out. It seemed like a lot of guys came in behind us, but it all worked out. If I had known Joey’s plan to get a run there into turn three for sure, then I probably would have maybe come home second with him there, but we’ll take third. We definitely needed it and I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
What does it mean to see the No. 3 in Victory Lane to you? Is it a big deal to you?
“I definitely thought it was awesome. Just to be out there racing with him and we got to draft a little bit there in the first practice on Thursday. I was trying to learn as much as I could from him because, obviously, he’s pretty good here.
“To see the 3 in Victory Lane was definitely awesome, and just to be out there racing with him was pretty cool. But, like Joey said, I think I’d be more happy if we were in Victory Lane.”
Can you talk about being back in the Top 30?
“Unfortunately, that’s a good goal we’ve been trying to work at for a while. It just seems like every time we had something going, something was there to get in our way. It means a lot for us to get back in the top 30 and, hopefully, we can just carry this momentum out. I feel like we’ve had some really good race cars, and have just not been able to finish the deal. Some of the things was definitely me putting us in a bad situation, but there’s a lot of stuff that could have gone our way that didn’t, so, hopefully, we can carry this momentum onto Chicago, and, hopefully, the rest of this season.”
And there were other racers in Daytona trying out the new Mustang stock car. Here’s what they had to say about their race.
Brian Ickler – No. 16 Con-way Freight Ford Mustang (Finished 9th)
“We started with a really good race car. I was really happy with it and then we struggled because I got really, really free. I fell out of the draft twice, but we came in and got tires and didn’t lift from there.
“I got in the right lane and finished ninth, so, all in all, it was a good run. We had good pit stops all night and I’m really happy. It’s definitely a momentum booster for the weeks ahead.”
Carl Edwards – No. 60 Copart Ford Mustang (Finished 11th)
“It just didn’t work out as far as trying to push Ricky with the way all the holes ended up at the end. We had great tires and we had a fast race car. We just took a gamble and it didn’t work out like we wanted, but that’s OK. I had a lot of fun racing and we had a lot faster car than where we finished, so that’s good.”