Stenhouse, Mike Kelley Looking for Direction in 2024

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., sitting 25th in points, is looking for improvements during the early months of the 2024 Cup Series season.

With three finishes outside the top 30 and only one in the top 10, the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing crew have their work cut out for them as the series approaches the summer stretch.

Crew chief Mike Kelley, who returned to the box for Stenhouse in 2023, has been a leading voice in righting the ship for JTG.

“It’s nice to have that person on the other end of the radio who really understand what you’re saying and how you’re saying it,” Stenhouse said. “You believe in that guy, you’ve accomplished a lot of good things together.”

That success includes the 2023 Daytona 500, a victory that started one of Stenhouse’s better seasons through 11 full-time seasons. And though teams like Richard Childress Racing have recently swapped crew chiefs in search for better direction, Stenhouse believes that search can be done together.

“For me, Mike is my guy and always has been,” he said. “It’s been really nice the last two years to get to go racing again. It’s almost like racing with my dad in sprint cars. It’s that feeling.

“A crew chief [today] is totally different than what a crew chief used to be. It’s important for them to get set-ups dialed with the engineers, but a lot of the engineers do a lot of the leg work on car set-ups and crew chiefs steer them in the right direction.

“Mike does a really good job of communicating everything through the team. Sometimes, it’s a little redundant and might be over-communicated. But I think that’s important.”

JTG has been a consistent mid-pack team since their inception in the Cup Series. The single-car Chevrolet organization has scored no more than three top-five finishes since Stenhouse joined the team in 2020. Additionally, the 36-year-old has finished outside the top 20 in points every year but one during that span.

In an effort to avoid becoming content with their place on the grid, Stenhouse has highlighted where the team is strong and where they can improve.

“We’ve had some bright spots, but then we’ve had some issues,” he said. “I’m on who always likes to hang our hat and focus on the good things. Obviously, while knowing we have to work on the things we’ve struggled with.

“Last year, we struggled in practice and qualifying. That’s where I feel like we’ve been a little stronger [in 2024]. It seems when we have a decent practice, we’re struggling to translate that to the race. That’s the area we need to work on.

“We’ve had cars capable of running where we’re expected to run in practice. We just have to translate that to the race. I’m just continuing to work on that with the guys, Mike and our engineers to make sure we figure out that delta.”

More than the week-in week-out efforts, Stenhouse reiterates that the finishing result is what matters most. Contrary to what Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric told Kickin’ The Tires last week.

“Ultimately, what matters is the end result and where you finish,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you get there. They give you points and money for where you finish in the race, not what happens throughout the race.

“For me, I think it’s super important to look at where you finish. And there are always reasons how you finished there, right? You had a really good car, strategy didn’t work out, made mistakes, you had a bad car and executed really well and finished well. You have to dissect the whole weekend.

“Knowing the result of the race is the most important piece.”

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