Driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford fails to make GEICO 500 field MORE: Sunday's starting lineup RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Changes to NASCAR's qualifying format for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway produced a number of surprises, not the least of which was the failure of Ricky Stenhouse Jr . to earn a starting berth in the 43-car field. The Roush Fenway Racing driver was one of three that failed to earn a starting position based on his qualifying speed -- Justin Allgaier and Reed Sorenson also failed to post times fast enough to crack the top 36 here Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway . Sorenson ( Tommy Baldwin Racing ), 36th fastest in the opening round, was eventually added to the lineup after Joe Nemechek 's No. 29 Toyota failed post-qualifying inspection. "I didn't consider the fact that our position in points would leave us in jeopardy," Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush said afterward. "That was a blind side on my part. It's unfortunate we weren't in a better place in points, and that we had as many good cars as we did that didn't qualify based on time. It's just unbelievable that we didn't get on the race track in time to get a lap there." Stenhouse has made 72 starts in Sprint Cup competition, including 67 in a row since moving up to the series full time a year ago. He made five starts between 2011-12 while winning back-to-back championships in NASCAR's Nationwide Series . His team's DNQ was the result of several things, from Saturday's slow qualifying speed to his team's position in the owner points standings. During the first round, Stenhouse posted a speed of 176.947 mph, just 43rd overall for the round. While unfortunate, under normal circumstances, he would have been one of several slotted into the field in one of the seven remaining positions available based on owner points. But because seven drivers higher in owner points failed to crack the top 36 (Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch , Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon ), Stenhouse Jr . wasn't able to secure one of those starting spots. NASCAR determines its 43-car lineup based on the following: positions 1-36 are awarded based solely on lap times. Positions 37-43 are awarded based on a team's rank in the owner standings, and assigned positions based on their lap times. (If a former champion fails to post a speed in the top 36, he may be assigned the 43rd position, if his team isn't high enough in the owners' points standings to receive one of those berths.) NASCAR made changes to the qualifying format for Talladega, with teams split into two groups for the first round, and limiting the time of the round to five minutes. The latter change meant teams would likely get one opportunity to post a qualifying run with no time to return to pit road, allow their cars to cool and return to the track should it be necessary. Stenhouse was last in line in a group of cars that included Gordon and Harvick making their qualifying laps in the first round. But when Gordon slowed (to create a gap between his group and another group ahead of the pack), it slowed those behind him. Because they didn't get back to the start/finish line in time, they were unable to post another lap. "I thought being the last car in line would be beneficial for us," Stenhouse said. "We had Jeff Gordon leading the pack there; I thought we would have a good shot at putting a good lap in, but my spotter was telling me '‘hey, you have 30 seconds to get across the start/finish line' as we were entering Turn 3. "I don't guess the 24’s (spotter) was giving him a lot of information. He kept slowing the pack down and we didn't get a good lap and never got across the start/finish line in time. "My spotter was giving me the information I needed and I wish the 24 would have been doing the same." Stenhouse later tweeted the following: All I got tough day pic.twitter.com/4KWEFvpmQ9 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) October 18, 2014 Gordon said the qualifying plan "was shot before the plan started." "I messed up ultimately," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "I just mistimed getting to the line. The whole group was going so slow I knew I had to have a gap and when I came across the line I thought I had enough (time) to be able to complete that lap and get one more, which was the only way we were going to make it. "But we came up short. It's a mess out there. It's not easy." It was the second time this season a driver from the RFR stable failed to qualify for a Sprint Cup race. A week ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway , Nationwide Series regular Trevor Bayne was unable to qualify for the Bank of America 500 in a fourth RFR entry fielded just for that race. Roush, whose organization also fields Sprint Cup entries for drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards , didn't blame the qualifying format for the setback. "We just didn't get on the race track fast enough and I'm not sure who actually made that call. I'm not sure if it was left up to Ricky or the spotter or (crew chief) Mike Kelley," Roush said. "It's my responsibility to make sure we execute our program so we have a chance to qualify. We clearly didn't do it here and that's an oversight." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Patrick suffers minor damage from contact Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Complete Sprint Unlimited results Danica Patrick's car was dinged from some three-wide racing with Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and Austin Dillon in the Sprint Unlimited, but Stenhouse and Dillon took the brunt of the damage. RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race The incident on Lap 62 brought Patrick to pit road quickly, and she would lose a lap. She had spent some of the race running in the top five but had to make multiple pit stops to repair the damage. Stenhouse Jr . smacked the wall, while Dillon went for a spin after the two made contact. Both Stenhouse Jr . and Dillon's car suffered enough damage to put them several laps down. Patrick would go on to finish the race in 10th place, while Stenhouse Jr . and Dillon would finish 16th and 17th, respectively, 14 laps down. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ricky Stenhouse Jr . has trouble getting into the Tunnel Turn and ends up in the wall, damaging the No. 17 Ford.
Roush Fenway Racing driver returns after failing to qualify at 'Dega RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr . watched last weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway from his motorcoach, one day after failing to make the starting field for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. It was a sour pill to swallow, but the 27-year-old driver was quick to note that he's bounced back from adversity in the past. He also learned that his girlfriend, fellow driver Danica Patrick , was quick to go to bat for him, pleading his case and railing against tweaks to the qualifying procedure that made him a Sunday spectator. One weekend removed from the qualifying gaffe, Stenhouse was buoyant after the first Sprint Cup practice Friday at Martinsville Speedway , eager to put the miss behind him and push toward improved performance in 2015. If nothing else, with 43 cars showing up for 43 spots in the field at Martinsville Speedway , he'll have a better vantage point behind the wheel of his Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford. "Having to watch the race is never any fun, but it's part of it," Stenhouse said. "Sometimes you don't make races. I never thought we wouldn't miss a race here, but everything worked out perfectly and we did. Everything aligned and a worst-case scenario happened for us and we wouldn't let it happen again, that's for sure. … We learned from it and thankfully we don't have to worry about it this week. That's a positive." The confusion surrounding the multicar Coors Light Pole Qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks Talladega and Daytona was compounded last Saturday by the waiting game with teams trying to time their qualifying attempts to the best aerodynamic advantage. Ultimately, time was not on Stenhouse's side. "We're not thinking about making it in the race. Knowing we needed to make it in the race, we would have gone to the middle of the pack to run a lap good enough to make it in, and that'd be it," he said. "We were trying to make it to the next round, because that's what we get paid to do -- try to get poles. I thought rolling off last, we'll get the biggest draft and easily make it to the next round and have no problem. Then my spotter's telling me you need to kind of hurry up. He told me halfway down the back straightaway, you're going to have to hustle to get around here." After Jeff Gordon 's car slowed his momentum, Stenhouse crossed under the start-finish line just after the black and red flags were unfurled, leaving him among those bitten. But so were several other Chase-eligible drivers, who snapped up the remaining provisional berths based on the team owner points standings, leaving Stenhouse and Co. as spectators. "Now, being where we are in points is not where we want to be, but heck, 10 positions up in points still wouldn't have got us in the race," said Stenhouse , who was 27th in the driver standings entering Talladega. "It would still be tough to have that perfect scenario work out again, but we'll be better in points next year and hopefully won't run into any situations again like that. Stenhouse ran an extra lap after flashing under the black and red flags, just in case there was an error in timing and scoring. But as he inched back toward pit road, it became more and more evident among the No. 17 camp that the team would be left out. That prompted Patrick to action, as she marched up to NASCAR officials to speak her mind -- not just on her boyfriend's behalf, but as a general protest to the unconventional qualifying system. "I was really pissed off after qualifying," Patrick said. "I went to the NASCAR hauler and said 'what the … is this? Is that what we were trying to accomplish?' Part of it was because it was Ricky and part of it was, that could've just as easily been me, and I know how important those races are to me and my team, but then also my sponsors and the people who invest into those events, especially the speedways, the big ones, all of them. These are all very big races, all four of those, in particular the Daytona 500 . "And so I was fighting for not having someone who wasn't deserving in that situation." The qualifying lockout left Stenhouse in a tricky position regarding what to do next, but instead of going home, he remained to fulfill sponsorship obligations and stay as a TV viewer with a strong rooting interest. With the laps winding down and Patrick leading, she looked like as good a pick as any to secure a surprise breakthrough win. If so, Stenhouse said he would have been front and center in Victory Lane but stopped short of watching the race from atop the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 pit box. "All those guys like me. They would have let over there, but I figured it would be best to watch it from the bus," Stenhouse said. "Had some pizza. A Coca-Cola. Just chilled out." Stenhouse has already had hard lessons in his tenure with car owner Jack Roush. He failed to qualifying for a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville during his rookie season of 2010; that and a flurry of crashes in the first half of the year led to a two-race benching and shop duty back at Roush Fenway headquarters. The rest of the story is that Stenhouse recovered to win Nationwide Series championships the next two seasons, graduating to NASCAR's premier division the following year. While he hasn't enjoyed this most recent dose of misfortune, he's hoping the difficult lessons eventually pay similar dividends. "I learn real quick of things to do and not to do," Stenhouse said. "Sitting there watching races, especially long Cup races, makes you sit there and think about everything you need to do, whether it be get more focused and help the guys at the shop on our team more to figure out what we need to do to make our Fords fast again like they need to be. Spent some time with my guys about already looking ahead to next year at the things we need to do differently so we're not in the circumstances we are (in) right now in terms of being further back in points and not running as well. "We're already looking to 2015 and making sure we're not this far back in the garage." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Ricky Stenhouse Jr . thanks his team and sponsors for their help in winning the 2011 Nationwide Series Championship.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr . thanks his team and sponsors for their help in winning the 2011 Nationwide Series Championship.
The defending Nationwide Series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., celebrates his first career victory at LVMS.
New points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr . celebrates his fifth Nationwide Series victory of 2012.
Alan Cavanna and Marty Snyder talk to Ricky Stenhouse Jr about his upcoming rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
24-year-old Ricky Stenhouse Jr . celebrates his first Nationwide Series championship in only his second full-time season.