The annual Daytona Media Day took place today at Daytona International Speedway in which all of the drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series met the media to discuss the 2012 season and the upcoming Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26. Ford driver comments follow:
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 EcoBoost Ford Fusion – ARE YOU READY FOR ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP? “We’re ready for another championship. For our Nationwide Series it starts next week and I think we’ve worked on a few things that we needed to work on during the off-season and look to start out strong this year."
DID THAT TITLE TAKE A WHILE TO RUB OFF? “It’s rubbed off. I think it rubbed off as soon as it turned January 1st because it’s another year. It’ll really rub off after our first race because that’s the start of the 2012 season and we’re only gonna be as good as the season we’re in, so we’ve got to do it again."
YOU HAVE SOME CHANGES WITHIN THE TEAM. “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of changes. The good thing is our crew chief, Mike Kelley, is still the same and we’ve got our core guys that are the same. We’ve got a few new additions that Mike has worked with in the past. They’re working on sponsorship right now. We’ve got Kellogg’s Rice Krispy Treats and Pop Tarts for Daytona, which is good. They’ll stock us up for breakfast throughout the season at the beginning of the year, but they’re working on a lot more stuff right now, so it should be good."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RUNNING THE DAYTONA 500 FOR THE FIRST TIME? “Ford EcoBoost is gonna be on our No. 6 Ford Fusion for the 500. The 150s will be less hectic now that we have a starting spot for sure, being in the Top 35 in owner’s points, but that’s gonna be huge. I was here to be able to see it last year and see everything going on – the pre-race festitivites and things like that – so to be a part of it this year is gonna be huge."
YOU JOKED AT THE MEDIA TOUR ABOUT DANICA AND THE OTHER GUYS. WHAT DOES HAVING HER IN THE SERIES FULL-TIME MEAN? “It’s gonna be huge for our series for Nationwide Insurance and for the guys like myself. It’s gonna bring a lot more fans to watch every single weekend and that’s what our sport needs, that’s what our series needs. I think it’s gonna be good. I think she’ll run strong because once she’s running full-time and running every week, we talked about it not so long ago, she’s gotten a lot more comfortable and feels like her performance has gotten a lot better since she started and she’s only run 16 or 17 races, so I told her that once she gets a full season in and runs every week, she’ll definitely start seeing the improvement and having fun. I think it’s gonna be huge for our series."
DOES IT STRENGTHEN THE SERIES ECONOMICALLY AS WELL? “For sure. It’s a win-win no matter what. I don’t think there’s a downfall to it. When you have more people showing up for the races, you have more tuning in on TV, sponsors like to see that."
A NEW GUY WON THE DAYTONA 500 LAST YEAR IN ONLY HIS SECOND START. DOES THAT GIVE YOU HOPE IT CAN HAPPEN AGAIN? “It definitely could. This will be our second start in the Sprint Cup Series and our first Daytona 500 start. I think watching last year, it just kind of gave everybody the sense that if you put yourself in the right position that you can win this thing. It wasn’t just luck. He positioned himself in the right spot throughout the race and for the end of the race. You’ve still got to do the right things, but it definitely can be done."
WILL YOU TRY TO WORK WITH TREVOR HERE? “We’ve talked a little bit about it, but, right now, we don’t know exactly how the race is gonna play out. I would say 95-98 percent of it will be the old-style pack drafting. We did a little bit of that in the test. Obviously, I feel like whoever is gonna win, the last couple of laps are gonna come down to the two-car tandem drafting, but we’ve talked a little bit about it. We’re just gonna have to see how it plays out. Obviously, it would be ideal to be lined up behind each other coming for the last few laps, but with that big pack drafting you’re not sure who is gonna be behind you.” COULD THIS BE ANOTHER RICKY-TREVOR INSTALLMENT? “I don’t know. There’s no telling, but it would be awesome for us to have a one-two finish either way."
ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE JEREMY LIN STORY AT ALL? “I am. That’s pretty impressive. There’s a guy that people overlooked and he got the opportunity and he’s making the best of it. That’s what we have to do as drivers. I got the opportunity with Roush Fenway Racing. We struggled a little bit, but Jack gave me almost like another opportunity and we stepped up as a race team and came home with the championship. Watching him is impressive. I’ve watched him play just about every game he’s played and that’s pretty cool to see."
DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM STORIES LIKE THAT GIVEN YOUR SITUATION? HIS AND TEBOW’S? “Definitely. You just have to have that chance and that faith that you’re there for the reasons that you can do it. You’ve got to believe in yourself and I think we’re in that same position coming into the Daytona 500."
IS THERE ANYONE ELSE THAT LEAVES YOU STAR STRUCK? “I don’t really strive to meet a ton of people. I think it would be cool, I’ve never met Tim Tebow, but I think it would be awesome to meet him. I enjoy every athlete that I meet because I know they’ve put in just as much hard work into getting to where they are as I have and I think that’s cool to meet people like that.” WHAT IS IT ABOUT TEBOW? “I think his faith is strong and growing up a Christian that’s cool to see, and Jeremy Lin is the same way, so those guys are setting a good example for younger kids and I think that’s what’s cool about it."
YOU WITNESSED THE ACCOLADES THAT A DAYTONA 500 WINNER ENJOYS. DO YOU ENVISION WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE FOR YOU TO DO THAT? “I’ve definitely thought about it, especially after talking to Trevor all throughout the week in between Daytona and Phoenix. He got to do a lot of cool things. He was tired when he got to Phoenix, but I’m sure it was definitely worth it. You wouldn’t trade it for anything, so I’ve thought about it and thought about how much fun it would be to be able to do that. Unfortunately for him, he obviously got sick and had to sit out and that kind of messed up his whole year, but it definitely would have just kept getting better and better. I’ve thought about it myself and I would enjoy it a lot."
DIDYOU NOTICE HE WAS GETTING FATIGUED EARLY ON? “I think Trevor doesn’t sleep that much anyway. I mean, he’s always on the run. He gets up and is running 100 percent the whole day. That’s just his energy, but I don’t think it was necessarily him getting tired, it was just obviously that huge bug bite at Texas that I told him did not look very good, but I wasn’t a doctor. That was unfortunate. I’m just glad he’s back 100 percent."
HOW AWARE ARE YOU OF THE LEGACY OF THE 6 CAR AT ROUSH? “I’m very aware of it and I think it’s awesome we were able to bring that number a championship in the Nationwide Series. Obviously, the Cup car has a lot of history with Jack. That’s his go-to car and to be able to be in it and for him to have confidence in me that we can do a good job for that number means a lot. Mark Martin has done a lot of great things in it and won a lot of races with it and, hopefully, we can do the same and keep that going for Jack."
IT’S NOT A FULL-TIME ENTRY NOW IN CUP. IS IT YOUR HOPE TO MOVE UP AND MAYBE BE IN THAT VEHICLE? “That would be perfect world. I told Jack at the end of our 2011 season that I wasn’t in a hurry to get to the Sprint Cup level. If I could run full-time Nationwide again, that’s what I would like to do and I told him that I would like to run some Cup races here and there throughout the season, especially toward the end of the season if we were planning on going full-time in ’13. But I told that was obviously what I would like to do. That’s how I envisioned it going, so we’ll have to see where that goes. We’ve got the full-time Nationwide deal and that’s what we’re gonna focus on, but I would love to be in the 6 Cup car. Being 6 in the Nationwide car, I don’t want to be jumping around from number to number, so I think it would be nice. We’ve already got the 6 established for ourselves in the Nationwide Series. Six was my go-kart number growing up, so it all kind of worked out quite well."
ON THE FENWAY SIDE. DO YOU HAVE CONTACT WITH JOHN HENRY OR THE RED SOX PEOPLE? “I’ve been to Fenway Park and been to a few games and I plan on going quite a bit this year. Josh Beckett came to the 500 and talking with him was pretty cool. He wears alligator boots and I think I had the same pair on. He’s an awesome guy, but any athlete, like I said earlier, is cool to meet just because they’ve put as much work into it as I have. To be associated with them, you want them to be good and you want them to win. I’m sure I’ll be headed up there pretty soon."
DID YOU PLAY BASEBALL LIKE LITTLE LEAGUE? “I did. I played baseball and actually carry my baseball glove in the truck. I brought it down here. I played pitcher and first base. I’m left-handed."
THE SOX NEED A SHORTSTOP. “I’ve played a little shortstop, a little bit of everything. In Little League you play whatever they need you to. If you’ve got guys that are hitting, I would love to be in the outfield. I surpassed home plate from the Green Monster with a frisbee for sure. Those things flew. Hopefully, I can get up there. I’d like to throw the first pitch out at one of the games and do a little batting practice, but I plan on going to a lot of games this year. Last year, I didn’t quite have the opportunity to go to a lot, but I plan on being up there a lot more often this year."
DO YOU LOOK BACK ON LAST YEAR AND FEEL YOU NEED TO DO SOME THINGS BETTER? “Definitely. I sat down and looked at the things I needed to do as a driver to be better. There was a lot of things at the beginning of the season. I felt like our last 10 races, I feel like we did a lot of things almost exactly like we needed to do. I think we had one finish outside the Top 10 in the last 10 races, so I think that part was fine. My restarts need to be a little bit better. The things that I did throughout the beginning of the season, where we gave points away, is really what we’ve focused on during the off-season. We had a few pit calls not go our way. I made a few mistakes last year at the beginning of the season – running fourth and end up 10th that cost you some points. Looking at everything as a whole, there’s a lot we can get better at. I think I said earlier in the off-season or the beginning of this season that I feel like we could win six to ten races and the reason I came up with that number is my crew chief and I looked at how many races that we led late and finished second or third. There were five or six there that we felt we gave away late in the going, so I feel if we do everything right, we can have a good number of wins and hopefully win the championship as well.”
CASEY MEARS – No. 13 Geico Ford Fusion – DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE THINGS AREN’T MOVING FAST ENOUGH AS FAR AS THIS NEW TEAM GETTING MORE COMPETITIVE? “We always do. I’m greedy. I’m a racecar driver. I want it all and I want it right now because I know if I have it all I can go out there and do my job and prove people wrong or prove our guys right and go out there and do a good job. But the reality of it is we’re still a small organization and we are still growing. There are times where I bite my lower lip a little bit, but Bob has made changes by leaps and bounds in this program. It just continues to get better and continues to grow. We get continued support from Geico, who has actually done an extension with the team. They’ve stepped up to do more races this year. There’s a lot of things going in the right direction, so everytime I want to be there now, I look at and see where we’ve come from and it pretty impressive in a short amount of time."
HOW MUCH ENGINEERING HELP WILL YOU GET FROM ROUSH? “It’s a little bit hard for me to understand exactly where we’re gonna be. We’re definitely not at the level of like the 21 and the Petty team is with Roush. We’re strictly getting cars and parts and pieces from them and getting the Roush Yates motors, so we do have a sim program which is gonna be great, but it’s not to the extent that they’re all gonna be working with, so it’s definitely a different level. But the product – the parts and pieces and the stuff that we’re getting is the same on the track – it’s just that we’re gonna have to work a little bit harder on our own to sort through a lot of that stuff."
WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE TO FORD MEAN FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? “For us it’s huge. First, it’s awesome because I’ve never had the opportunity to drive with Ford before and obviously the history Ford has had in our sport and in general, it feels good to be a part of that. It means a lot less worry. Last year, we were always wondering whether we had the power and where things stood. With the Roush Yates horsepower, it’s very clear that that’s not an issue. There are things we’re constantly gonna improve on and try to get better, but that’s not gonna be one of the key things that we’re concerned with and wondering if we’re lacking going into the season. So it’s a nice peace of mind for our team and our organization where we can just focus on the racecar and not worry about the horsepower side of it."
ANY CHANCE YOU WOULD WORK WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS, BEING SINGLE-CAR TEAMS? “I would think that it would make sense. Obviously, we’ve got to develop that relationship with those guys. I know Trevor just from walking back and forth and Donnie Wingo was my crew chief in the past, so I definitely have some relationships over there, but, right now, it’s so early in the year we haven’t had the opportunity to talk about it. At the same time, there’s a certain amount that we can share and a certain amount that we can’t. At the end of the day, I think it’s something that would be valuable, for sure – two smaller teams being able to really kind of rely on each other a little bit, but the fact they have a little bit more of a direct line to Roush, I think that’s where they’re gonna lean more often. We’re a little bit on our own island, but a lot closer than we’ve ever been and I’m really excited about it. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to surprise people this year."
WHAT ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500. ANYBODY CAN WIN, RIGHT? “It levels the playing field. What’s weird is that even when we felt like we were off we had an opportunity to win. We missed the 500, but when we ran Daytona in July we led laps and ran up front and we knew that we didn’t have that competitive of a car, but if you worked with somebody right and worked the draft right, you had an opportunity to win. I think this year, more than ever, at Germain Racing we have a really good opportunity to win – not only because it’s anybody’s game, but because we have more competitive car on top of that.”