Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Will Return to JTG, But What About Everyone Else?

1. Will we see more of Kevin Harvick behind the wheel after All-Star Weekend?

With the announcement that Kevin Harvick would practice and qualify Kyle Larson’s No. 5 car at North Wilkesboro Speedway for All-Star Weekend while Larson is busy with Indianapolis 500 obligations, Harvick joined a growing list of drivers that have come out of supposed retirement less than a year after their final starts.

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Kevin Harvick Announced as Kyle Larson's Standby for NASCAR All-Star Race

Of course, Harvick isn’t returning for a points-paying event, and he was adamant about his retirement at the end of 2023 when asked on multiple occasions last season. He also said on his Happy Hour podcast that Rick Hendrick had called him and asked if he could serve as the backup for Larson, and that he couldn’t turn down such an opportunity.

Given all that Harvick has said on the matter, I’m taking his word that he’s still retired. But plenty of his peers have come back for part-time stints after hanging it up, and there’s a chance (as slim as it may be) that he may have the urge for more once he gets behind the wheel again at North Wilkesboro. But regardless, it will be great to see him back behind the wheel to help out Larson in what will be NASCAR’s first Memorial Day Double attempt since Kurt Busch in 2014.

2. How discouraging is it for sponsors and small teams when even success goes unnoticed?

With a ninth-place finish at Dover Motor Speedway in Saturday’s (April 27) NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Anthony Alfredo and Our Motorsports scored the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus for the first time in their careers. It also marked the second straight week that the bonus was won by a smaller team, as Ryan Sieg and RSS Racing scored the $100K by finishing 17th at Talladega Superspeedway a week prior.

But if you were watching the television broadcast, such a feat might’ve gone under the radar. FOX’s Regan Smith interviewed Alfredo after the race, but FOX Sports 1 never aired it on the television broadcast.

The interview was ultimately posted on the network’s social media channels, but not until the following morning, when all the focus was shifted toward the Cup race.

Yes, the broadcasts can never be perfect, and there are plenty of avenues in which FOX has received criticism this season. But when a smaller team scores such a feat — and defeats juggernaut teams in the process — it has to be covered. Sponsorships keeps the wheels turning for NASCAR, and teams, especially smaller ones, need a fair share of the coverage when they have that success.

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s back in the No. 47 car for years to come, but does that quell the rumors currently surrounding the team?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is in for the long haul at JTG Daugherty Racing, as it was announced that he signed a multi-year extension with the team on Thursday, May 2.

The news of Stenhouse’s extension comes less than two weeks after it was first reported that Kroger’s future with the No. 47 team is up in the air and that an ownership change may be on the horizon.

What Stenhouse’s extension shows is that despite the current rumors, the No. 47 team will be back for 2025, and its charter won’t be on the move.

Beyond that? There’s a lot left in play.

Tad and Jodi Geschickter are the ‘JTG’ of JTG Daugherty, and Tad brings the team’s long-standing connection to Kroger. They, along with former NBA All-Star Brad Daugherty, have been the most predominant faces of the team.

But in NASCAR’s news release about Stenhouse’s extension, it was co-owner Gordon Smith, not Tad, Jodi or Brad, who provided quotes about Stenhouse’s extension with the team. Smith is the newest member of the JTG Daugherty Racing ownership group — having joined in 2016 — and the only one that isn’t featured in the team’s name.

NASCAR’s release also stated that Stenhouse will return to pilot the “No. 47 NASCAR Cup Series entry,” which, to me, implies that the team’s current alliance with Chevrolet might be up for renewal at the end of the year.

The aforementioned April 22 report from Adam Stern about the uncertainties surrounding the teams also noted that Tad Geschickter and his Brand Activation Maximizer agency has worked with Joe Gibbs Racing in acquiring sponsorship since 2022, and that JGR is one of the frontrunners to land Kroger, if it moves.

Stenhouse will be back in the No. 47 car next year, but the sponsors, the owners and the manufacturer of the team might undergo significant changes this offseason. Still, the No. 47 team is here to stay, and in a landscape of dwindling single-car teams at the Cup level, that is a welcome sight to see.

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Did You Notice?: The Death Of NASCAR's Single-Car Team?

4. Will Ryan Truex earn a larger role in Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program after a 2nd win at Dover?

Ryan Truex picked up the second Xfinity win of his career at Dover on Saturday, leading only the final two laps on an overtime restart. The win was Truex’s second in a row at the track, as he dominated to the tune of 124 laps led for his maiden victory in 2023.

Dover has been kind to Truex — just as it has to his older brother Martin Truex Jr. — as 169 of Ryan Truex’s 197 laps led in Xfinity competition have come at the Delaware 1-mile oval.

Truex is far from a one-trick pony at The Monster Mile, however, as he has recorded two wins, five top fives and nine top 10s in his 16 Xfinity starts with JGR since the start of 2022.

But sponsorship remains an issue for Truex despite his two wins, as all 11 of his Xfinity starts for JGR since the start of 2023 have featured Toyota on the hood. And after running a full-time schedule with Kaulig Racing in 2018, Truex has made no more than six Xfinity starts per year since the start of 2019.

He’s competed in five of the first 10 to start 2024, but all of six of his starts in 2023 came in the first 11 races. After that, he was on the sidelines up until this year’s season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

The good news for Truex is that with four full-time JGR Xfinity cars and only two full-time drivers (Sheldon Creed and Chandler Smith), there are plenty of races for the team’s Nos. 19 and 20 cars that have yet to be filled.

His remaining schedule will ultimately come down to sponsorship, just as everything does in this industry. But he’s turning more heads with his performance, and a second win is huge in the race to find more funding.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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