Last weekend was another victory for NASCAR's most popular driver, Chase Elliott, but it was almost a monumental win for a true underdog.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr had just one top-ten finish coming into last weekend's event at Dover, and that was a 10th place finish at Fontana. It's safe to say that the 2022 season has not gone the way the 34-year old had planned. In fairness, lady luck has not been kind to Stenhouse or the JTG Daugherty Racing team.

Their luck finally changed when the driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet finished off an impressive weekend with a runner-up finish at the "Monster Mile." Stenhouse has just two victories in his 339 Cup starts, and those both came on superspeedway tracks. It was a surprise for many to see him running so well at Dover, but Ricky was not one of them.

“It’s always been fun coming to these tracks,” Stenhouse said. “The car is always on edge and you can push the front tires too far, overwork the rear tires. I feel like sliding around plays into my hands and not having a lot of grip.”

After a great qualifying effort on Saturday, Stenhouse kept his car up front during the race, battling inside the top five for most of the afternoon. They were finally able to get the result they deserved, and it certainly gives them a much-needed confidence boost as the midpoint of the season inches closer.

“We needed it bad,” Stenhouse admits. “We’ve had good race cars and better race cars than what we’ve shown. It seems like all of our fast races we’ve had issues as far as getting crashed on the speedways, having some engine issues. Our season feels worse than what it is because we’ve had three short tracks and have been really bad at those. Our guys are learning this new car as quickly as they can and I’m happy with the progress."

Crew chief Brian Pattie knows what this team is capable of. “This is what the team can do most of the time. We have good tracks, we have bad tracks just like everybody, but we need to perform better on our good ones and this is one of them. We don’t come here to suck.”

They certainly didn't suck last weekend, and the rolled into Darlington yesterday oozing with confidence. "This feels good," Stenhouse said of his runner-up finish. "Hopefully we can carry this momentum on. The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us. Darlington is tough. It is its own race track, it’s kind of like Dover. It is its own animal.”

Having a clean race, on the track and on pit road, is exactly what the JTG organization needs to properly demonstrate its ability. When both of those things are executed to near perfection, Stenhouse believes this is a team that can find victory lane. That is what it is going to take in order for them to have a shot in the playoffs this year.

“No doubt you’ve got to win, and that’s why you’re a little frustrated finishing second, knowing that one spot could really flip your season completely upside-down in a good way,” Stenhouse said. “We will still battle for that. We fight. I mean we scratch and claw for everything we’ve got. With a single car team, your resources aren’t as much. As far as feeling like I have good power and stuff, I feel really good about that."

The 2nd at Dover and 10th at Fontana were nice, but in the other nine races this season, Ricky's average finish is 28.8 with a best result of 21st. That won't cut it. Everyone on the team is cognizant of that, and is working diligently to fix it. Eliminating mistakes sounds easy, but there is a lot of luck and circumstance that goes into that.

Stenhouse was running third in the Daytona 500 before contact from Brad Keselowski sent him into the wall and was leading at Atlanta when a right-rear tire failed, causing him to crash. They also had an engine failure in practice at Phoenix and a drivetrain failure at Circuit of the Americas.

You can only hang your hat on so much as far as, hey we got fast race cars and got nothing to show for it," Stenhouse said. "You can only do that so many times. We’ve been working really hard and taking the information we can get and try and put together good races." That begins today at the track that is "Too Tough to Tame."

Seeing Stenhouse back in victory lane for the first time since 2017 would be a thrill, but a win for this organization would be an incredible story for the sport. In 659 races, the JTG Daugherty Racing organization has just one win. That came back in 2014 at Watkins Glen with AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel.

After a much-needed morale boost last Sunday, the team isn't necessarily expecting a win today at Darlington. What they do anticipate, is another solid run for their No. 47 machine as they aim to turn their season around. Ricky certainly believes they can. "You can look at the start of the season and be bummed, but I feel like we’ve got a lot of good things going and hopefully this is the start of it."