Clean slate for Ricky Stenhouse

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Valvoline NextGen Ford speaks with members of the media during the NASCAR Championship Contenders Press Conference for the Nationwide Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will win his second straight Nationwide Series championship on Sunday if his 20-point lead over Elliott Sadler stands up, but Stenhouse’s future lies in the Cup series, where he’ll race full-time for the first time next year.

On Wednesday, Roush Fenway Racing announced its driver/crew chief lineup for 2013. For those who expected either Jimmy Fennig (current Cup crew chief of departing Matt Kenseth) or Mike Kelley (Stenhouse’s Nationwide crew chief) to lead the 25-year-old driver’s foray into NASCAR’s top division, the appointment of engineer Scott Graves came as a surprise.

“It’s cool to have a crew chief that doesn’t have any habits,” Stenhouse told the NASCAR Wire Service after the formal press conferences at Homestead. “It’s not like I’m coming in and I’m having to adjust to him. He’s going to come in and kind of learn what I like, and that’s what he’s going to roll with.

“I think that’s a cool situation to be in.”

Stenhouse participated in the decision to install Graves as his crew chief, in a series of moves that sent Fennig to the No. 99 Ford of Carl Edwards, who has been mired in a year-long slump after losing the 2011 championship to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker.

“Before the announcement came out, before any decisions were made, (general manager) Robbie Reiser and (team owner) Jack (Roush) came to me, and we sat down and talked about all the different scenarios and all the different situations, what we thought was best — not only for me, but for our company in general,” Stenhouse said.

“I think we did the best with what we had within our company to make our company strong all the way across the board. We need Carl back in championship form. We need Greg (Biffle) to be in championship form. We need guys that want to work hard and build a relationship and work up with me. I think all the pieces are in the right place.”

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