Ford Performance NASCAR: Kentucky (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Media Availability)

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FORD PERFORMANCE NASCAR NOTES AND QUOTES

Date: Friday, July 7, 2017

Event: Quaker State 400 (Media Availability)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Kentucky Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., fresh off his second victory of the season a week ago in Daytona, spoke with media at Kentucky Speedway following both Cup practice sessions. Among the topics were Stenhouse’s post-Daytona win celebration and more.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Fifth Third Ford Fusion — HOW WAS THE PARTY? “Yeah, the party was good. We had a lot of family and friends and my mom, dad and sister drove overnight to get there. They weren’t at Daytona but they came to the party. We had about probably 65 or so people there. A lot of kids and their families and wives of my crew guys that came. That was very neat. It was cool to spend the day with them and just cook out and eat and play games and jump in the pool. It was a good time. Ryan Blaney and I were the last ones standing at 3 o’clock or so. Then I had some media stuff to do the next day. Luckily Andrea didn’t schedule that until later in the day.”

YOU HAVE A SIMILAR BACKGROUND TO KYLE LARSON, CHRISTOPHER BELL, THESE GUYS THAT ARE WINNING RACES IN DIFFERENT SERIES. IS THERE SOMETHING TO WINNING IN THOSE CARS AND THE CONFIDENCE THAT COMES WITH THAT CARRYING OVER TO HERE? “I think so. I think showing up and doing what Kyle has been doing in sprint cars is pretty tough to do. I had the opportunity back when I was racing sprint cars all the time to run Ohio Sprint Week like Kyle did this year and won three out of five races in 2006. That was a big task and a huge goal that I accomplished. For him to do it when he is not running full time sprint cars is impressive. Going to get around different cars and trying to adapt to different race tracks and changing conditions just keeps you sharp. It definitely brings some confidence to what you are doing over here. I think it plays into it. It is a lot of fun. I would love to do it a lot more often. I don’t have everything in line to do that like Kyle does right now. He has a good system lined up that he has been working with the last few years and it has been paying off for him. I definitely think it brings confidence to both sides.”

WHEN DID YOU GET TO TALK TO JACK (ROUSH) AND WHAT DID HE SAY? “I called him Sunday and he didn’t answer. He called me back on Monday. He had just gotten back to Michigan from out at Mt. Rushmore and he was super excited. I finally got to see him today. He wasn’t at the shop all week. He was pumped up that we got back to victory lane again. He was bummed that he wasn’t there to enjoy it with us and now he expects more. That is good. We expect to keep thriving and get back in victory lane some more, especially when Jack is there. It is always special to win in this series. It is tough. He has won a lot of races all across the board in NASCAR. We went through a dry spell there in the Cup Series so to get two of them this year has been pretty special for us.”

DID HE SAY IF HE WATCHED THE RACE OR HOW HE FOUND OUT YOU WON? “I didn’t even ask. I am sure he watched.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. CONTINUED — HOW CONFIDENT DOES THE SECOND PLATE WIN LAST WEEK MAKE YOU COMING TO A TRACK LIKE THIS? “It makes me feel good to get our first win and then back that up at Daytona. That was pretty special. I never really thought of myself as being a speedway plate racer but we have had good finishes there. I think it was a matter of circumstances to keep getting decent finishes, taking a car that maybe wasn’t fast enough to go win but still finish really well with. The guys have been building really fast speedway cars over the last year. To take advantage of that was pretty important for us. We knew we were going to have an opportunity at those tracks to win so we wanted to make sure we were able to capitalize on that. To capitalize on two of the three so far makes us feel really good. Coming into Kentucky after a second win you feel pretty confident about what you are doing in your company to get better, even though it is a totally different race track. We are still putting the same amount of effort into all the other tracks like we are the speedway program. We are seeing better results. Our Fifth Third Ford was pretty solid today. I am not 100-percent happy with it but I feel like I have better speed than I did last year. Over the last few 1.5 mile tracks we have been to I felt we were a little better today. That brings a lot of confidence no matter what track you win on.”

YOU HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS IN THE XFINITY SERIES, YOUR ROAD TO YOUR FIRST AND SECOND WIN IN CUP WAS LONG. WERE YOU EVER DOUBTFUL? “Yeah. I definitely was discouraged and kind of fed up with not winning. When I was in the Xfinity series, going a year and a half, almost two years without winning before I won my first in that series it felt the same way. Once you finally get the win and then we got another one, then the next year we won six and won the two championships. It has been similar on the Cup side, just a little longer wait. But it feels good once you finally click off that first one it gives you confidence that we can do this as a team, I can do this as a driver and it puts you in a different mindset when it comes down to the end of those races that you know what you are supposed to do and are capable of doing. It kind of just breeds confidence at every track you go to. For me, myself, the mindset I have coming into Kentucky, even though I hit the wall early last year and blew a tire and crashed out, I have put that behind me and feel like we can get things right and contend for a win here. It definitely was discouraging and you have to dig deep and look inside yourself to make sure you keep pressing forward and show how much you want to do this.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE STAGES THIS YEAR AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAYOFF POINTS THIS YEAR? “We haven’t gotten as many stage points as what we wanted to get this year. I feel like we have gotten good finishes in the races, the final segment, but in the first and second stage we haven’t been getting those points the way we want. That has really kind of shifted the point standings. If you look at the people that have gained those stage points, they are really far ahead in points and have kind of gapped themselves. The stage points is what has helped Matt Kenseth claw his way back into a battle for the playoff points. I feel like we are behind on that. We haven’t gained as many as we have wanted but right now with two wins all we are concerned about is a stage win and race wins. You have to try to gain as many points as you can for playoffs and those are the only two things that will get that job done. I think everybody has enjoyed the stage racing. It definitely has given us another opportunity to play strategy, knowing when cautions are coming out, and if we can make a call throughout the race tomorrow that allows us to maybe get a stage win, even though we might give up some track position for the following stage, I think you will see us try that.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. CONTINUED — THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS WE COME TO KENTUCKY WITHOUT HAVING TO TEST A NEW AERO PACKAGE. HOW REFRESHING IS THAT? “It is nice. My notebook wasn’t very big last year after our race. We only ran a few laps. My teammates notes last year, they ran really well. Greg (Biffle) ran sixth with my crew chief Brian Pattie and Trevor (Bayne) ran really well too. We came really similar to that. This place is tough. The less downforce is fun and challenging and we enjoy the challenge but it is tricky. It is what makes Kentucky unique. Getting into three is tough but if you can get it right you will be good on Saturday night. We have been trying to work on that all day.”

YOU HAVE BEEN VOCAL ABOUT YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH BRYAN CLAUSON, WITH THE BRICKYARD COMING UP IN A FEW WEEKS IS THERE SPECIAL MEANING GOING BACK TO HIS HOME STATE? “Yeah, it is going to be neat. Driven to Save Lives has done a big campaign. Indianapolis Motor Speedway did a big thing around the Indy 500. It will be neat to see that campaign and a lot of familiar faces. His sister will be there and friends and family. It is always nice to run up to the midget shop there in town and see Tim. I talk to Tim just about every week. It is nice to be able to go see him in person. I talk to just about everybody on the phone throughout the week. It will be nice to hang out with them, go to dinner, have them come to the garage and stuff. Stuff that I did before Bryan passed and just kind of continue with everyone there.”

WITH DALE JUNIOR RETIRING, MANY DRIVERS SAY A HUGE FAN BASE IS SORT OF UP FOR GRABS. OTHER THAN WINNING RACES, ARE THERE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO GET SOME JUNIOR TO JUNIOR TRANSFERENCE? “If I was running first and he was running second I could let him win and that would probably gain a lot of his fans for next year. No, I think there will definitely be a void there with him not racing but the way I look at it I doubt there will be any one person that will take all those fans. I think it is important for us to make sure we keep the fans of the sport engaged with what we are doing. There are a lot of us drivers will gain fans from that. We need to just go do what we do on the race track and hopefully they will follow along. I think winning at Daytona and Talladega probably didn’t hurt. He gained a lot of his fan base at those race tracks. We will try to continue that but it will be tough to just take his fans.”

 

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