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MAY 12, 2017 | Ford Performance Staff

Stenhouse Reflects on First Career NASCAR Cup Win

StenhouseKansas_800

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., fresh off his first career MENSC win last weekend at Talladega, met with media members Friday after the final Cup practice session to discuss the historic win, the weekend ahead and more.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (No. 17 Go Bowling Ford Fusion)
“It has been a good week. A fun week and long week at the same time. Monday, Ryan Blaney and I went up to Cleveland to film American Ninja Warrior, which was fun. We got back and had our team meeting on Tuesday and a team lunch, media and interviews. We got to hang out at the shop with the guys and that was good. Then we had a celebration dinner on Tuesday night and went out with some friends so that was cool. A lot of media on Wednesday and then finally got to do some rest on Thursday to get ready for this weekend. Now that we have been on the track today it is the start of a new week and we are looking forward to the task at hand this weekend.”

DO YOU HAVE BRAGGING RIGHTS NOW OVER DANICA? “No, we don’t talk about it. I mean, we are like every other driver. Everybody wants to win. I didn’t have bragging rights with anybody else that hasn’t won either. We just go out and try to win.”

WERE YOU AND BLANEY THE ONLY ONES TO DO THE NINJA WARRIOR DEAL? “Just Ryan and I did it in Cleveland. Ben Kennedy did it when it was in Daytona which was pretty cool. I wish we could have done it then but our schedules didn’t work out. I think Conor Daly from IndyCar did it in San Antonio. Last year the IndyCar guys and myself did it in Indy which was really cool. Ryan and I were the only ones to do it in Cleveland and we had a lot of fun with it. I am not sure when it will air. July 27th or something. It should be fun.”

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE LIKE BACK HOME AFTER THE WIN? “It was cool. The governor called me and invited me to lunch down in Jackson (Mississippi) and hopefully I can get there and do that sometime. It is cool to have a lot of friends. I saw some old teachers send out some things on social media, teachers of mine in classes when I was growing up. Just to have all your friends, people you race with at home, super proud of you. It was really cool. They know this was my biggest win of my career and toughest one. It was cool to see the response and made me feel really good.”

YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN STRONG ALL YEAR. HOW DO YOU CHARACTERIZE THE PROGRESS YOU’VE MADE AND SHOWING UP AT KANSAS THIS WEEKEND AND BEING STRONG IN PRACTICE AGAIN. “It is good. I was feeling really good about our season before the win. That win just put us over the top of how we feel but we know that we still have a job to do and that is to continue to make this organization better and our cars better and not make mistakes. We know where we need to get better. The short tracks have been really good to us this year and we feel really good there. The speedways, we showed last week we had a lot of speed in qualifying and the race. We know we need to get better on the fast, smooth tracks like Las Vegas, Texas and here. We had a good practice session and didn’t really worry too much about qualifying, just trying to build a notebook for the next time we come back. I think for us we are feeling really good with our Go Bowling Ford this weekend.”

THE CARS WERE EXTREMELY LOOSE OUT THERE TODAY, IS THAT A TREND YOU THINK WE WILL SEE IN THE RACE? “I hope not. They are definitely tough to drive. I think right now, the start of practice with the truck rubber down and maybe a little different tire maybe had a factor in that. I felt like once our rubber got down all over the track my car seemed to get a little better for me but others were still on edge. Larson texted me between practices and asked if mine was as edgy and sketchy as his was and I told him it was. I wasn’t feeling real good about it first practice. I felt good about the speed but it didn’t drive very good which is okay if you can keep it going straight. I think the less downforce, the wind is blowing pretty good out there, some hard tires, it is definitely tricky. We will see how it is in the race. Generally the race starts out a little bit on edge. I feel like we all kind of tip-toe around to start the race just because it is quite a bit different than when we practice during the day. It kind of comes to everybody once we keep racing through.”

ROUSH FENWAY RACING DOWNSIZED FROM THREE CARS TO TWO CARS, HOW MUCH DO YOU FEEL THAT HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE TEAM SUCCESS THIS YEAR? “I think it goes both ways. I think right now where we are good is the people that we put in place and the things we worked on in the off season. That said, I think it is easier to get everything done to our two cars versus doing them to three. There were times last year that we had some updates that we couldn’t get into all three cars. We had to kind of pick and choose. It is nice now knowing that if they find something early in the week that we can get it in the cars for the weekend and it will be in both of them. I do think that has been a help and I hope it helps us continue to make progress through the season where last year we started out okay but didn’t maintain that throughout the rest of the season.”

ALL-STAR RACE NEXT WEEK, IT HAS TO BE EXCITING TO KNOW YOU ARE LOCKED IN. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT STRATEGY FOR NEXT WEEK AND DO YOU THINK THE SOFT TIRES WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE? “I hope they make a difference. I think tires make a big difference. You can run the same compound and same structure build on a weekend and then have it have different date codes and an older date code versus a newer date code might make the car not drive near as well. We have experienced that here at Kansas. One of the things I felt we had a little off in the first practice was the date codes on our tires. We didn’t try to tune around that. You put a different set of tires on for the next practice with date codes you have the rest of the weekend and the car feels a lot better. I guess a softer tire at Charlotte should help quite a bit.”

DO YOU KNOW THE GOVERNOR OF MISSISSIPPI OR DID HE CALL OUT OF THE BLUE? “Yeah, I met Phil Bryant before Atlanta. I went to Jackson and talked in front of the House of Representatives and they had me in the state capitol. I met him earlier this year and then now we got a win and he was super excited. He is a big race car guy and loves racing.”

THE NINJA WARRIOR THING WAS SCHEDULED BEFORE YOU WON TALLADEGA? “Yeah, I got there and they were surprised I still showed up.”

WAS THE SPONSOR ADDITION IN THE WAKE OF YOUR WIN OR WAS THAT IN THE WORKS TOO? “No, that was already in the works. We have been working real hard on sponsorship and getting our cars performing better and working on all aspects of our company. For me, I wouldn’t say life has changed. I still went to the shop two days this week and still did all the normal things. A little bit more media. It kinda felt like back when I was running Xfinity and winning quite often. It was nice to get that feeling back. it makes you want to keep doing that. It is back to normal this weekend and from here on out until we start winning some more.”

DOES THE WIN AND ALMOST ASSUREDLY BEING IN THE PLAYOFF CHANGE YOUR APPROACH TO THE REST OF THE SEASON? “I told my guys that I didn’t really want to change our approach to the weekends. I wanted to continue to do the same thing we have been doing throughout the season and try to limit our mistakes, try to keep that momentum going. Now, yeah we are going to focus in a little more on Charlotte, here, Dover, look at the Chicago race and make sure that we focus in on that. Loudon as well. There are definitely tracks we will try to build a bigger notebook on the weekend. A Michigan isn’t as important even though it is important to Jack Roush. We have to put all our eggs in going to Michigan in the basket to try to get Ford and Jack a win there because that is important to them. Therefore, I want to keep trying to do the weekend the same as what we have been. I told the guys I wanted to make it on points. Let’s be consistent, let’s make sure we are running well and not slacking off. I want to act like we don’t have the win and still try to make it in on points.

YOU DID NINJA WARRIOR LAST YEAR TOO. HOW MUCH EASIER OR DIFFERENT WAS IT THIS TIME AROUND? “Last year I did a lot of training and was working out all the time and went to a few different Ninja type gyms and got there and felt prepared and then I fell off on the rolling log. I would say that this years course - there were things that were harder and things that weren’t as hard. They switch it up every year and then every city that they do it throughout the year. I was super nervous last year. There were times that I got nervous this year waiting to go but after the Talladega win I felt a lot better. And I met a few people the year before that run some gyms, that come to a lot of the shows and they were there so it was cool to kind of have a group of people cheering for you that you had met there the year before.”

DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE? “I think the girls are really impressive that do it. I think Danica would do really well. I keep trying to talk her into doing it. Girls like Kasey and Megan, who are fairly short - it is the exact same obstacles. I think that is really impressive.”

IS IT TOUGH TO FIND MARKS HERE WITH THE BARE WALLS IN THE CORNERS HERE? “For me, no. I don’t use marks that often on circle tracks. On road courses or places like Pocono where every corner is quite a bit different, I use the markers. 1.5 mile tracks I generally don’t use many markers, I kind of go off feel. There are some drivers that use markers so I am sure it is a little more difficult.”

WHAT WAS THE CONVERSATION LIKE WITH YOUR DAD LAST WEEKEND AFTER EVERYTHING CALMED DOWN? “It was good. He was headed home Monday and they found his golf cart so they turned around and went back and got it. For him it was really cool because he put a ton of work into my career. For him to be at my first win was super emotional for him. I was really glad to have him there. He told me that he was having to charge his phone probably two or three times a day with everyone calling to congratulate him. I think that is one of the things he loved about the win, being able to talk to people that helped us race sprint cars and sponsored us there and helped him throughout his career. Really my career started before I was born when he was still racing and all the people he worked with and had helped him. He was out doing yardwork in the yard and people were stopping by all day while he was doing that. It was a good week for him. He came to Kansas so he is ready to go. I think he wants to go to every race now.”

HOW MANY RACES DOES HE USUALLY ATTEND? “I don’t know. 10 or so? In Xfinity before I owned a motorhome and ran Cup, I didn’t get a motorhome until I ran Cup, I had gotten him a motorhome and he would bring it to the track now and then. I think in 2012 he came to 25 races or so. Since I have been in Cup and have my own motorhome he just comes when he can get all his work done. He builds engines for a living and works 16 hours a day at the engine shop, cuts grass and then comes here as quick as he can.”