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When the the month of May began, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s 2022 season was defined by two and a half month's worth of missed opportunities, frustration, and bad results. But in the span of three weeks, the narrative has suddenly swung dramatically in the other direction.

In the first 10 races of the season, Stenhouse had just one top 10 finish before going through a string of eight straight finishes outside the top 20, seven of which were finishes of 27th or worse. Then came Dover, where he made his way to the front late in the race and finished second. And then came a pair of eighth-place finishes at Darlington and Kansas.

Suddenly, Stenhouse and his race team have three consecutive top 10 finishes to speak of and four overall on the season. That's double what they had in all of 2021, as many as they had in all of 2020, and a massive reversal of fortune for driver and team that already felt capable of turning their season around.

"We've done some different setup things to make our cars better, and I think a little bit of performance has come from that," Stenhouse told CBS Sports. "We've had fast racecars, I would say, every race excluding three races. The finishing result, obviously, is what really matters. ... We focused on 'Hey, we've got fast racecars at these racetracks, let's make sure when we go to those, let's get those finishes out of it.'

"And some of those have been out of our control, some have been in our control. It took everybody doing their part to get the finishes we've had these past few weeks. We've not made any mistakes on pit road, I haven't sped on pit road, I haven't gotten in the fence and needed damage repair – All those things add up. And then obviously having a fast racecar with a good setup and good balance."

Though it took until nearly the midway point of the season for them to get the finishes they sought, the signs that Stenhouse and JTG Daugherty Racing were capable of contending were there from the very beginning of the year. Stenhouse led 16 laps in the Daytona 500 and was in position to win with six laps to go, but got crashed out. At Atlanta, Stenhouse led 22 laps and was leading midway through the race when he blew a tire and crashed out.

Up until this point, those runs are what Stenhouse's team had hung their hat on. And the runs they're having now are what they've been building towards not only this year, but the past three since Stenhouse and crew chief Brian Pattie were paired together at the start of 2020.

While they've had their moments -- specifically winning the pole for the 2020 Daytona 500 -- JTG Daugherty Racing's No. 47 has not had the smoothest team-building transition, whether it be due to COVID or the company as a whole downsizing from two cars to just one. Thankfully, the team has now settled in their third season together with Stenhouse, Pattie, and Mike Kelley -- the team's Head of Aerodynamics and Stenhouse's crew chief for both of his Xfinity Series championships.

"I feel like everybody's got kind of their role now at JTG, and everything's more normal," Stenhouse said. "Brian Pattie's got the team guys where we wants, I feel like we've got really good guys that are ready to work hard and put the work in. And then you've got Mike Kelley that's kind of helping our aero department and CFD work and making sure that we're not missing anything on that front. The shop flow's just going really good right now, and everybody's working together great.

"I feel like everybody's kind of found their place, and we're all liking the results that it's producing. We've got a good system with these new cars of putting them together, kind of the process of all of that in the shop. They were a lot different, but I think we're in a good spot."

In the context of 2022, the spot Stenhouse is in could not be better compared to what it was just three weeks ago. His recent hot streak has improved him to 25th in the Cup Series standings, and he is now just 95 points back of Aric Almirola for the final spot in the playoffs based on points.

The trouble is, so many different drivers have won that playoff spots available on points for drivers like Stenhouse are already dwindling meaning the No. 47 team likely have to win to earn a place in the round of 16. And as the 2022 season continues to produce new and unexpected winners, the scenario of what will happen if 16 or more drivers win a race -- and the lack of security that provides to drivers that have already won -- has to be seriously entertained.

"Obviously you would look at the trend right now and you would say that's definitely a possibility. Winning a race isn't going to guarantee [a playoff spot} – You could have to win a race and be above somebody else that has won a race in points," Stenhouse said. "All the points matter for sure. We've been on a good three-week stretch where we've closed the gap to 16th. And we've got it under 100, which it was well over 100 there for a little bit, so there is an end in sight as far as that goes.

"For us as our race team, we've just got to keep putting in the consistent races. If we can keep running in the top 10 and consistently doing that, we'll get our shot to win a race."

To that end, Stenhouse and his team are looking to capitalize on their strengths on big, fast speedways while improving their program on short tracks, where he admits his team has not run well. And should they succeed and find the winner's circle, it would be a major breakthrough for both driver and team alike.

Come July 4th weekend, it will have been five years since the last time Stenhouse won a Cup race at Daytona in 2017. For his team, August will mark eight years since their lone Cup win at Watkins Glen in 2014. Together, both have come close to ending their winless streaks -- Stenhouse has three second-place finishes with JTG Daugherty, including by inches at Talladega in 2020. And with the characteristics of the Next Gen car considered, the feeling is that one win will make even more possible.

"I feel like right now with this car, if you get to Victory Lane you're gonna feel pretty confident you'll be able to do it multiple times," Stenhouse explained. "The car's not changing, everybody's got similar parts and pieces, and you know when you take a car to the racetrack exactly what you have based off of the last time you were at that racetrack. I like what we're doing, being consistent and not making any mistakes, because that's what it takes.

"When you have a car capable of winning a race, you can't make mistakes, You've got to go out and execute. So I like the things that we're doing right now in this three-week stretch of focusing on executing, bringing a good balanced racecar to the racetrack, because I think eventually that will pay off."