Not so long ago, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was all the rage for all the wrong reasons.
He was caught in the middle of Internet gossip chatter after a highly publicized breakup with Danica Patrick. It's usually never a good thing when your private business is splattered on tmz.com.
Danica has moved away from both NASCAR and Stenhouse. She also has found a new love, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The TMZ gang has moved on as well, capturing Danica and Aaron in a romantic smooth in February. "AARON RODGERS RACES TO MEXICO W/DANICA ... Besame Mucho!" screamed the headline.
Stenhouse has carried on solo, both professionally and personally, as the only one still racing in NASCAR's Monster Energy Cup circuit.
It had been of a bumpy ride until Monday at Bristol, where he finished fourth, moving up the charts in the points standings. He is now ranked 18th overall.
Previously, Stenhouse had finishes of 29, 16, 14, 23, 18, 37 and 25.
"We were fighting track position, gaining it and losing it back-and-forth over the last two days but, all in all, it was a really strong run for our Sunny D Ford," Stenhouse said. "We had a good Friday, a good Saturday and a good race on Sunday and Monday. I'm glad we were able to get it all in, and we appreciate the fans for sticking around."
The strong finish at Bristol is encouraging for other reasons. Stenhouse, 30, had two victories last season — but they were both on restrictor-plate tracks in Daytona and Talladega.
Restrictor-plate tracks offer a quirky variable, giving everybody a lottery ticket because of the heavy carnage that takes out so many drivers. It can easily set up a one-and-done scenario (see Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500).
Those are the only two victories for Stenhouse in a Cup Series career that spans eight years.
Like Bayne, Stenhouse is a good guy with an engaging personality. But you still need something more to get you to the finish line.
"All in all, a great weekend for us," Stenhouse said. "Hopefully this will kind of get us going and kick-start us into next week and the rest of the season."
Perhaps best of all, the TMZ gang was nowhere to be found.
Mustang roars back
Ford Performance is bringing the company's iconic Mustang to the Cup Series next year, the company announced Tuesday.
This will be Ford's fourth different Cup Series model since the "modern era" began in 1972 with the Thunderbird, Taurus and Fusion, the current model on the track.
"This announcement makes me very happy," said Edsel B. Ford II, a member of Ford Motor Company's board of directors, in a press release. "Mustang is a car that is woven into the fabric of our country, and it's only right that we put it on the track in NASCAR's most visible series. I can't wait."
The move reflects a continued throwback approach by competing manufacturers in NASCAR's top-tier series. Toyota and Chevrolet have changed their body styles significantly over the past two years. Chevrolet introduced the Camaro ZL1 into Cup Series this year, although the results have been disappointing.
Kyle Larson is the only Chevy driver in the Top 10.
Trouble for Truex
Martin Truex Jr. had the kind of weekend usually reserved for guys who get dumped by their girlfriend and then the dog runs away from home, too.
Truex was involved in a Lap 3 accident at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday, pushing him back to 29th place when the race was resumed on Monday following inclement weather.
But then on Lap 270, the oil line broke in his No. 78 Toyota, pushing him back even farther to a 30th-place finish.
"Not much to say. Just one of those weekends you want to forget about and turn your focus 100 percent on the next race," Truex said.
The good news is that Truex, the defending Cup season champion, is seventh in the driver points standings. He moves onto Richmond for his 450th career NASCAR Cup Series start Saturday night.