Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Blackwell Angus Beef Ford Mustang, brings a near insurmountable lead into the final race of the season Saturday afternoon in the quest for his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Stenhouse met with media members Friday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway to talk about the upcoming race weekend.
YOU ARE ON THE CUSP OF YOUR FIRST NASCAR NATIONAL SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH WHERE YOU ARE? “Yeah, first off I love coming to Homestead and Ford Championship Weekend. I can’t think of a better place to wrap up the season and being in the position we are in right now. In practice we struggled a lot actually. I wasn’t expecting to struggle that much actually. We unloaded and it is kind of unheard of that we ran our fastest lap on lap 14. Normally the tires are awful by then. I think we have the race car where it needs to be. I am looking forward to next practice and the race. Points wise I feel really comfortable about where we are. As most of you know you’ve got the start-and-parks that make that pretty comfortable. We are looking forward to the race. We are going to go out here and try to win. We ran fourth here last year and I think we are going to have a shot at the win.”
WHAT IS THE MOST COMFORTABLE THING FOR YOU RIGHT NOW? “At this point it would be the 41 point lead that we’ve got. That is the most comfortable thing I think that we have going right now. The race cars that our guys are bringing to the race track every week are pretty solid and I have the confidence in the guys that we are going to unload with a pretty fast race car and something comfortable that I can drive really hard. That is what they have been doing every week and it has led to some of our consistency throughout the year.”
CAN YOU PUT INTO WORDS THE ARRAY OF EMOTIONS YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE LAST 12 MONTHS? “Obviously last year was awful. It was up and down but it ended really good last year. That kind of rolled over into this year and we had the confidence from the end of last year. Throughout this year I have tried not to get too high just because I know how lows those lows can be. I have tried to stay pretty level throughout the whole year, even to this point and after this point. Once you win a championship you still have to come back the next year and do it all over again. I am trying not to get too high on it. I definitely appreciate where we are. It is a lot of hard work that the guys put in the shot, the engine shop and everybody at Ford, Blackwell Angus Beef and Cargill. They all stood behind me when we weren’t running good. It is nice that we are here now and I can bring them to this point and we can do it as a race team. I feel great about where we are. I feel like at the beginning of the year I felt like we could be in this position. My crew chief and I talked about it and we had a team meeting at the beginning of the year and this was our goal. We set realistic goals and we felt like we could do that. We would like to have a few more race wins but I think that will come with time.”
JACK (ROUSH) STOOD BY YOU TOO. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU SAID TO HIM OR HE SAID TO YOU GOING INTO THIS RACE? “One thing that you don’t hear Jack say too much is him talking about things being fun. He is kind of straight to the point, a hard worker. I remember when I first got here in 2008 to Roush Fenway and Jack and I were talking and he asked me about winning our first ARCA race at Kentucky and I told him, ‘Man, this is fun.’ He looked at me and told me it wasn’t supposed to be fun. I said, ‘alright,’ and I haven’t said anything about racing his cars being fun. This year he has used that word a lot. It is cool to kind of see him excited for us. I think that is the emotions coming out in him that he did stand behind us and believed in us the whole time. He is having a lot of fun I feel like this year.”
HOW HAVE YOU GROWN AS A PERSON? “When I set my mind to something I want to do it, I want to accomplish it. This is no different than how we got to where we are. I didn’t do it alone but as a race car driver and as a person that was one of my goals, to get through last year, I said if I could get through last year then we could just about get through anything, especially as a race team. I think that is why it is so important that I have the same guys that I have right now. As a person I think that I really appreciate more of what my guys do at the shop, not just my team but our chassis shop, our body shop and the guys in the engine shop. Last year when I had to go work in the shop, I always grew up working on my race cars so I knew how much hard work went into it and I appreciate it, but after getting in there with those guys and realizing they have families at home and have to be at the shop at 6:30 in the morning. They are leaving before their family even gets up and they get home at 5:30. They have to eat dinner and to get a good night’s rest they have to be in bed by 10. The sacrifice they have I think I appreciate it now more than I did before, even though I thought I appreciated it before.”