Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Ford Fusion, has had one eventful experience in his rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The two-time Nationwide Series champion has found out that great success in that series does not translate to instant success on the Cup side. Stenhouse caught up with Ford Racing to discuss his rookie season, including the frustrations, disappointments and positive things he has experienced. In addition, he talks about what he has learned from Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle and how he has and can continue to help them down the Chase homestretch.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Ford Fusion – THERE ARE ONLY A HANDFUL OF RACES LEFT IN YOUR ROOKIE CAMPAIGN, HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO REFLECT ON THIS SEASON YET? “Yeah, it has been kind of disappointing. We definitely thought we should run better by now.
DID YOU EXPECT A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TOP-10 OR TOP-FIVE FINISHES THIS YEAR? “I didn’t have a number on it. I just wanted more. I thought that by the middle of the season we could be running top-10’s and top-15 consistently in hopes of toward the end of the year running for some top-five or some wins. That is kind of how I had envisioned it. It hasn’t been like that though. Like I said, the positive side is that we are starting to get better and we are starting to get more speed in our cars. We are getting better throughout the race. There is a positive side that we have been getting better and we are still learning. When we stop getting better and stop learning then we are in trouble. You just have to make sure we take everything we are learning and soak it up.”
YOU HAD THE POLE A COUPLE WEEKS AGO AND YOU SAT SECOND LAST WEEKEND IN KANSAS, WHAT HAS THAT DONE FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE? “It was huge. To get that momentum, to get that pole and to get in the Sprint Unlimited race next year and get more experience down in Daytona never hurts anyone. We barely missed out on the pole at Kansas last weekend. It has been fun when you go into qualifying and you know you have that chance. In Nationwide we had that chance every weekend and we had that chance in the race every weekend. You have to start somewhere and qualifying is definitely a huge part of the Sprint Cup Series. Now we are contending for these poles and qualifying up front, we just have to transfer that to the race.”
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM CARL EDWARDS THIS YEAR? “Just mainly about how he adjusts his car throughout the race, especially recently. We have been better in practice and better in the first part of races but haven’t been able to carry that on throughout the race. Listening to him and Jimmy (Fennig) in the meetings after the fact has been a big thing when they talk about adjusting their car and what Carl is telling them and focusing on. That has been a big help so far.”
WHAT ABOUT GREG BIFFLE? WHAT HAS HE TAUGHT YOU ABOUT BEING A SPRINT CUP DRIVER? “Jack (Roush) and those guys tell me to back up the corner all the time, but I can tell Greg drives it in really hard. I like his driving style. It kind of reminds me of my driving style. I think our feedback is really similar and that is always good to have a teammate that likes to drive the same as you.”
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO HELP THOSE GUYS IN THIS CHASE AND HOW CAN YOU HELP THEM DOWN THE STRETCH? “I think just like qualifying last weekend at Kansas. Anytime we go out in qualifying before them I try to go give them all the information I can about how the track has changed and what they can expect. Throughout practice if I find something that I am doing in the race car that feels better that picked our times up, I go down and tell them. I am just trying to help out during practice any way we can so they can have their cars as fast as they can possibly have it. It is all about one big team and trying to help each other get better.”
CHARLOTTE IS THIS WEEKEND. HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR FIRST CUP WIN THIS WEEKEND? “I don’t know. We have struggled there. The good thing is that I think our cars are faster than last time we were there and we had a good finish at Chicago and we qualified decent. We qualified decent at Kansas too and hopefully we can carry that momentum into Charlotte this weekend. That is a big part of it, carrying that momentum. I think Scott is learning what I need in these race cars to go fast and that might be a little different than Greg and Carl, but he is learning that and throwing things at our car to go fast and it has been working, so we will see if we can’t go all the way with it this weekend.”