Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Phoenix II Friday media visit

Ford Racing press release

Ricky Stenhouse Jr, the NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader by 17 points over second place Elliott Sadler comes to Phoenix International Raceway with two wins this year, both at Iowa Speedway. Stenhouse has two races to go with Sadler as the only driver that can mathematically challenge him for the Nationwide title. Stenhouse met with media at PIR prior to the first NNS practice.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

ELLIOT SADLER IS LURKING ON YOUR 17 POINT LEAD. HOW ARE THINGS FOR YOU RIGHT NOW? “He definitely is right there. We were hoping to be a little further ahead at this point but we will take where we are. We have 17 points and have a really fast Ford Drive One Mustang here this weekend and we are looking forward to Homestead. That is one of the places that I really enjoy. I always look forward to going back there. I feel like we are in a really good position right now for the final two races. We had to rally back there at Texas last week. We changed a set of tires and went from fifth to 11th. We changed them back to some new tires and went back forward. I think that the 2 car got a bad set there at the end. It worked out that we got our good set at the end. It is going to be tough. He is fast every week and we are gonna battle it out.”

IS THERE A SPECIFIC RACE THIS YEAR WHERE THE MOMENTUM CHANGED FOR YOU? “I don’t think so. It seems like anybody that has gotten the points lead hasn’t carried that momentum for a very long time. For us, luckily we have been able to carry it as long as we have here late in the year. I don’t think there is any one race track where we were like, ‘Oh, this is where we are going to start going forward from here.’ You always look back and some of the fuel mileage races that we lost points at, we go back and look at those and dwell on them for a little bit but it is a collective year. There is no race track that will just start you off I don’t think and finish you out for the year. I think the main thing we have done this year is that when we have those bad races we bounce back the next week with a top-five. I think that has been the key.”

YOU’VE BEEN ON THE TRACK, WHY IS THERE NO GRIP OUT THERE? “At first I think the race track needed to get cleaned off and get a little rubber on it. Once we got going yesterday I thought the track was fine. It had plenty of grip. There were two grooves in one and two yesterday and three and four was a little narrow but it always is here. You can always run the second groove in one and two when it was the old race track but three and four, when you get out of the groove, it gets pretty slick. Yesterday I would run six or seven laps around the bottom and get a feel for the change we made and then make four or five laps around the top, trying to get a little rubber up there. I figure somebody’s gotta do it to get some rubber up there. That was my game plan, to make the groove as wide as we can. I think the track is coming in pretty good and when the cup cars get on the track they will widen it out and put a lot of rubber on it. It will turn out to be an okay weekend.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF RACING HERE AT PIR AND HOW WILL THE NEW SURFACE IMPACT YOUR RACE THIS WEEKEND? “I’ve always enjoyed racing here. We’ve had all top-10 finishes since we started coming here with the Nationwide series. As much as I like the old race track, the new one is fun. It is smooth and I think it is going to be really fast. I do think that we will be able to pass come race time. I think the Cup race is really, after our race and the truck race; it will be widened out enough for them to put on a really good show. For our race, it is going to be kind of unknown how much passing we will be able to do. I know when you get around a couple slow cars and pass through three and four on the top it gets a little hairy. I think as the race goes on there will be more passing as we go on in the race.”

WILL THAT WIN AT IOWA WHEN YOU HELD OFF CARL EDWARDS STAND OUT FOR YOU WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT THIS SEASON? “It was definitely a great moment but I think the one that stands out is probably the disappointing moment when we led 192 laps of 200 at Indy. The Iowa race will stand out for sure as one of the great races that we have had, but the one that always keeps sticking in the back of my mind when I think about the season is the one at Indy that we let get away.”

IF THE POINTS LEAD IS APPROXIMATELY THE SAME WHEN YOU LEAVE HERE THIS WEEKEND. HOW WILL YOU RACE AT HOMESTEAD? “I wish I knew the correct answer. Here lately I just try to go out and run our race as we are going to win. I feel like it is easier to do that and I think if we go out there to win we will be in the top-five or right around there. That is what we have to do to win the championship. If we can have two top five runs the championship will be ours. I feel pretty strong about it. We will just try to click off a top five and see if we can’t bring it home.”

YOU HAVE A CHAMPIONSHIP SITUATION TO TAKE CARE OF, BUT HAVE YOU TALKED TO JACK AT ALL ABOUT NEXT YEAR AND WHERE YOU FIT IN BEYOND THIS SEASON? “The good thing is I fit in to the organization, I am just not sure what slot we are going to go in just yet. I know guys are working hard on trying to find sponsorship, not only for myself but for Trevor (Bayne) and Matt (Kenseth) as well. I think that right now Matt’s is probably the most priority since he is obviously going to be running Cup for sure full time. Hopefully they can get something locked down for him and then worry about our situation. They haven’t said if we are going to run full time Nationwide and some Cup of partial both or partial Nationwide. They haven’t said. I will be in a car, just not sure exactly what.”

WHAT WAS THE IMPORTANCE OF TREVOR FINALLY GETTING THAT NATIONWIDE SERIES VICTORY FOR HIM BUT AS A CLOSE FRIEND CAN YOU COMMENT ON HOW THAT WAS FOR HIM? “It was huge. We’ve talked about it throughout the year and for him, not taking anything away, everybody wants to win that Daytona 500 but in the back of his mind he was like, ‘Man that is a speedway race and I really want to get a win on a drivers race track where you have to drive the car really hard, sometimes having it hung out.’ That is what he did. He got a great restart and then held off Carl (Edwards) and Denny (Hamlin) there at the end. Talking to him he seemed a lot more satisfied with that than anything he has this year. That was really good to get that confidence back in him.”

THIS RULE THAT DRIVERS CAN ONLY RUN FOR ONE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU FEEL IT TAKES ANYTHING AWAY FROM YOUR RUN THIS YEAR? “I don’t think so. We are sitting third in owners points and we are up there with the other guys. We are running with those other guys every week. At Iowa we beat Brad and Carl so I don’t think it takes anything away from it. We are working really hard to win this deal. It is not easy. I don’t think it takes away from it at all.”

AFTER LAST YEAR, THIS YEAR HAS BEEN PRETTY DARN GOOD. IS THERE A LIGHT BULB OR SWITCH OR SOMETHING THAT CHANGES? HOW DO YOU MAKE THE MENTAL TRANSITION FROM UP AND DOWN TO BEING IN THE RHYTHM OF THIS SPORT AND THIS JOB? “I don’t think a light switch went off between last year and this year. I think it started about Daytona, July, of last year. Everything started clicking. I think our race cars got better, or engines got better. I feel like our team was strong. I feel like I probably let them down a lot of times. I think I learned more patience and to stay focused through the races better and better at every race. That carried over to this year. Up and down in this sport is how it has always been and it doesn’t matter if it is growing up racing sprint cars at the dirt track or up here in this league. The up and down is part of it but I think that it really makes me appreciate this year a lot more. I think if we were to be in this situation last year I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I do now.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags avondale, ford, roush, stenhouse