Roush Fenway Racing press release
NNS Champion will become 14th driver to pilot a Roush Fenway Ford in the Daytona 500
CONCORD, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2012) – Last season Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became the fifth driver in Roush Fenway’s “25 Winning Years” to hoist a NASCAR Series Championship trophy. This season he will look to build on the success that has placed him atop the category of NASCAR’s fastest rising stars. Stenhouse, who looks to defend his 2011 Nationwide Series Championship, will make his debut in the famed Daytona 500 on Feb. 26. For the Olive Branch, Miss. native it will mark a milestone in his career and he would like nothing more than to become the second Roush Fenway driver to hoist the Harley J. Earl trophy in Daytona victory lane.
“I’m pumped,” said Stenhouse, who qualified eighth in Daytona 500 pole day on Sunday and will compete in the first Gatorade duel on Thursday. “Obviously it’s the biggest race of our season and it’s the one that everyone looks to. When I first got over to stock car racing that is the one race everyone wants to win.”
Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards says that your first Daytona 500 is like no other race and he expects the young Stenhouse will do will in the event.
“Your first Daytona 500 is huge,” said Edwards who finished 12th in his Daytona 500 debut in 2005. “I think Ricky is going to do a really good job. I think for any short track racer, to be able to start in the Daytona 500 is huge. I think that Ricky will do a really good job, have a lot of fun and I hope that he and his whole family just enjoy the day, because your first Daytona 500 is a big moment.”
Fellow teammate Matt Kenseth also remembers his debut well. “It was an exciting day for us,” said Kenseth who won the 500 in 2009. “It was really exciting to walk out on the line and see all the guys we were going to get to race against and to look up into the stands and see them packed full of excited race fans.
Stenhouse was in the pits last year when his close friend Trevor Bayne shocked the world and won the event. This year he will have an even better seat for the event, directly competing with Bayne and 41 other drivers on NASCAR’s biggest stage.
“Being there last year and being around it, while not being a full part of the show, but being at driver introductions and such, I was bummed out to not be a part of it,” remembers Stenhouse.
“I think being able to be a part of it this year will be very exciting, and to have a chance to win the biggest race of my career is going to be a lot of fun. I’m just going to try and take it all in as we go, because you only have one first Daytona 500.”
And can Stenhouse repeat on what Bayne was able to accomplish last season in his first Daytona 500 attempt?
“I think we have to get to the end of the race and obviously in a typical Speedway race anything can happen,” said the NASCAR champion. “You have to position yourself in the right places for where you need to be, coming to the checkered on the last lap. That is what we are going to do, figure out what position we need to be in to try and win the thing -- I think that is very possible.
Stenhouse made his Sprint Cup debut last season driving the Wood Bros. No. 21 Ford at the Oct. Charlotte race and played to rave reviews after a more than solid 11th-place finish. He will look to build on that Sunday in NASCAR biggest race of the season.