Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Sam’s Club/Cargill Ford Mustang, is leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings with three races to go. Stenhouse Jr. came into the Texas infield media center to talk about the championship battle and his hopes for this weekend.
YOU HAVE A 15-POINT LEAD OVER SADLER IN A GOOD POINTS RACE. “Yeah, I wish it wasn’t that good, but it is. We’d like to be further ahead, but we can’t look back on the days that we lose points, we’ve got to look ahead to Texas and Phoenix and Homestead where we can gain some points. We feel like these are really good race tracks for our team and, really, Roush Fenway as a whole. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season. The 2 car has been really strong the last couple of weeks, so it was good to have a couple weeks off and not really worry about anything, just hang out and relax, but it’s definitely good to be back at Texas."
WHAT’S THE BALANCE BETWEEN AVOIDING MISTAKES AND BEING TOO DEFENSIVE AND NOT GOING FOR ALL YOU CAN GET? “I think you don’t make mistakes when you give 100 percent. I think you start making mistakes when you’re too defensive, so we go out every week and run as hard as we can – practice, qualifying and the race – and we go for wins. That’s what we’ve been doing all year and that’s what has gotten us here, so we’re not gonna change anything. The mistake part, like not getting caught speeding on pit road, making sure our pit stops are smooth and no penalties, things like that."
HOW IS JACK THESE DAYS LEADING THE POINTS IN BOTH SERIES? “Jack doesn’t treat anybody different. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. He’s treating me the same now as what he did last year when we were struggling. That’s the one good thing about running for Jack is he’s passionate as we are about this and it would be awesome to bring him another championship and it would be cool to sweep both series this year."
HOW MUCH DID YOU THINK ABOUT THESE LAST FEW RACES DURING YOUR TIME OFF? “We sit and think about the races that we have coming up and think about the things we can do to gain the most points. The guys have been working on our cars really hard in the shop, in the wind tunnel, they’re working on the motors, and we’re just making everything the best we can to make sure that we’re not giving up anything. The 2 car is coming to get all they can get and we can’t control what they do. We just go out and control what we do. These two weeks that we’ve had off, I spent the first week the first couple days looking back like, ‘Man, I wish I wouldn’t have given up some points at Charlotte,’ but then I realized that I had to get over that and move on and look forward to these last three.”
HOW DO YOU ASSESS YOURSELF AGAINST ELLIOTT AT THESE LAST THREE TRACKS? “I would have to say you’d have to give him the advantage over us at every single race track we’ve run this year. He’s got more starts at some of these tracks than I do period in the Nationwide Series, so I would say he’s probably got the upper-hand as far as the experience, but I feel like our team is really strong. I feel like we’ve assembled a good team with good race cars. I feel like our race cars are better than his and I just feel like our package is where it needs to be, but experience-wise, he’s probably got the upper-hand but the way we’ve been running this year and the way we’ve run at Texas and Phoenix and Homestead in the past, I feel really good about our chances."
ANYTHING NEW ON NEXT YEAR? “No, sir. We’re focused on going to get this championship and whatever happens next year will play out. I just show up to the shop every week, show up on the plane and whatever Jack tells me to do, I do."
WHAT HAS JACK SAID ABOUT NEXT YEAR? “I’m under contract with Jack, so I just plan on doing whatever he tells me, but he hasn’t said Cup, Nationwide. He says I will have a job next year, but just what we’re doing is unsure right now.”