Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona 2 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Media Availability)

Ford PR

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion, met with media members Thursday after opening Monster Energy Cup Series practice at Daytona International Speedway.

YOU ARE OUR LAST SUPERSPEEDWAY WINNER (TALLADEGA). WHAT’S IT LIKE TO COME TO DAYTONA THIS WEEKEND? “Yeah, it’s good. I think a lot of people asked if we were going to run the same car. I couldn’t talk Jack (Roush) into giving me (that) one. We have our back-up car from Talladega and worked on it. Jimmy Fennig and the guys at the shop have been working on it making sure it was ready to go. In practice today it felt pretty good. We did a single-car run and it felt like it was pretty strong. Hopefully we can repeat what we did at Talladega. I feel like we have the cars and equipment that’s good. Doug’s (Yates) built a lot of good horsepower. Us Ford’s got together there in practice and felt like we had really good speed together. The way that these speedway races and stages play out you can definitely work with your manufacturer with as many Fords as we have and get a good game plan together and get another Ford in victory lane.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS NEW GENERATION OF YOUNGER NASCAR CUP DRIVERS? “It’s good. I think that there’s a lot of us that go out and drive really hard and want to get everything we can out of a racecar. Still have a lot to prove. There’s a few of us that got our first wins, finally. I think that’s cool. Just like myself, you win one and you want to win more to keep proving you’re meant to be here and suppose to be here. Us as a team feel like we should be here and suppose to contend for wins. We’re getting better every week. I know all the other guys are feeling just the same. It’s a good group of guys. We all get along. We’re all quite a bit different. We all got our things that are different. It’s a good mixture.”

EVEN WITH YOUR WIN, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO TO CATCH UP TO LARSON AND TRUEX? “Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s nice to have the win. Technically we’re not locked in right now. You never know how many winners we’re going to have. We have to push to make sure we stay up in points. But then again you have to think about the playoffs and how far behind you are when you start the playoffs. You definitely want to get more stage points and that’s a difficult thing to do when Martin and Kyle and those guys are taking them all. They’re doing what they have to do. It’s going to be a lot easier (Playoff) for them. A couple catastrophic things could put a hurt on them, maybe Round 2. It’s definitely a priority of us to get stage wins. Here at Daytona is a good chance for us to play a little strategy. Try and get a stage win and try and put ourselves in position to get a win. I think if we prioritize this weekend it would probably be the win and get five more points instead of stage win and only getting a point. That’s a concern of ours. Something that we’ve been talking about is to go out and get stage wins without really having a good car. At our place it’s just trying to get our car better where were capable of going out and winning stages.”

WILL THE HEAT BE A FACTOR THIS WEEKEND FOR THE DRIVERS? “It’s funny. A lot of people who tend to workout a lot tend to have issues after the race, so I’m not sure. I feel really good. It’s hot. It’s just different than Sonoma. Sonoma was hot, temperature, but dry. Here it’s pretty humid. Mississippi, where I grew up, it was similar. I’m use to it. I enjoy the heat. I think it makes for better racing. The tires fall off more. This race…a couple of times we’ve had to run it in the day…has been pretty tough on handling and setups. I think inside the car we should be fine.”

DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE ANY DIFFERENT WITH IT BEING AT NIGHT? “Not really. I think there’s tendencies that Daytona has when the sun does go down and you adjust for it setup wise. It’s definitely different than the 500. But the temperature is hotter in July than it is in February. Sometimes it races very similar to the 500, just with the temperature difference. We really don’t do much different.”

CAN YOU ASSESS THE FIRST 16 RACES OF THE SEASON? “For us…we haven’t to many short-tracks lately…I felt that that was a strong suit if I look back at the first 16 races. Ironically, that hasn’t been one of Roush Fenway’s strong suit over the years. I’ve enjoyed going to those tracks. We definitely know that we have to get better on the mile-and-a-half tracks. I think we’ve made a little bit of progress, not as much as we would have liked to. Pocono we got our best finish. Michigan we got our best finish that we’ve had there, so that’s good momentum. Dover was a really good race track. We were running third and we blew our right-front tire. I think since our win we’ve had some decent races, just not as strong as what we’ve wanted. Sonoma was a race last weekend that I thought we had better speed than we normally do. We didn’t get to capitalize on that. I’m looking forward to what’s coming next in the season. Going back to some of these tracks for the second time knowing that what we’ve been working on is paying off and gauging ourselves to see if we’re getting better not. I’ve been pretty happy of the first 16 races. I’m looking forward in getting back to some of these short-tracks.”

IS IT HARD TO BELIEVE, ARGUABLY, THAT THE TWO BEST PLATE CARS OF THE YEAR AREN’T BEING USED THIS WEEKEND? “Well, I think it’s not odd. Back in the day it would be odd. I feel 15 years ago you would take our Talladega car and fix it and put it back together. These teams, I know the processes that Roush Fenway goes through to build these cars, there’s so much data that we have to build our cars exactly the same so we felt like our backup car was identical and we were able to make some improvements and updates since Talladega. We feel good with what we got here. All the teams area really good at building cars identical to what they feel is the best.”

IS IT FAIR TO ASSUME THAT THIS CAR HAS BEEN UPGRADED? “Oh yeah. Things evolve quickly. Normally you have a mile-and-a-half backup car in your trailer. It’s a backup car you use throughout the year. There’s times during the year that your backup car can be well-behind the car you have as your primary car. A lot of times you don’t want to have to get out your backup car. You update your backup car quite a bit as well. We go to the next Michigan and if you’re bringing the same car back to Michigan 2 that you did at Michigan 1, you’re probably going to fall behind. That’s something that we fought last year at Michigan. We qualified in the top 10 and we go back to the second Michigan and qualify 26th. You’re definitely looking to evolve your cars week-to-week.”

YOU MADE SOME LEADERSHIPS CHANGES OVER AT ROUSH FENWAY…TOMMY WHEELER…AS EXAMPLE. TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THE PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT OVERALL FOR YOUR TEAM? “It’s been a long work in progress. I think that we’ve moved people in and out of positions. Tommy has been with us for a long time. He’s in a little bit of a different role now. We moved people around until we found the right pieces to the puzzle and put them in the right places. I felt like moving my crew chief of the last two year over to head our engineering department, I think he has done a really, really nice job there. Knowing what the teams were struggling with and and then things he was asking the engineering department to do that maybe wasn’t getting done. So know that he’s in that position he knows what he needs to do. And bringing Brian Pattie over to my team has definitely helped.  We feel like we speak the same language. Moving Mike Kelly to be in charge of a lot of our aero stuff. I think he works really, really hard to see this company move forward. He’s been with Jack a long time. Jimmy Fennig is running our speedway program, he can focus on that. I think our speedway program has picked up. It’s a lot of people that we’ve had, just putting them in the right positions.”

KYLE LARSON WON A FEW RACES IN YOUR SPRINT CAR. WILL HE RACE MORE THIS YEAR? HAS HIS SUCCESS ALLOWED YOU TO ASK PERMISSION GET BACK AND DRIVE SPRINT CARS YOURSELF? “Yeah, I drove a sprint car race last weekend. I think Jack asked Steve about it afterwards. I think I might need to get permission. I just kind of went out and did that.  But, I think it’s been a really long time for me of racing sprint cars. When I was racing sprint cars quite often in 2011-12, I thought it really kept you sharp. Even though we race every weekend, we’re really not in the car that often. I feel like practices are short sometimes. You learn a lot during the races you’re in and then you’re out until the following Friday. It’s nice to be able to go get in a car, go-karts or anything. I’m not sure if Kyle’s going to run anymore in our car. He’s got a lot of his races lined up, and that was just one that happened to fall at a time where we could run up and go do that. It was cool to be able to work on the car and having run that and win was really neat. But him being in good cars, I feel like across the board in sprint car racing, there’s a lot of really good equipment. I think a lot of equipment is really similar. What he does in sprint cars is pretty magnificent. It’s been awhile since I ran week-to-week in a sprint car. He’s put a nice schedule where he can do that. I talked about hiring him full-time but I don’t think that I can afford that. He would probably do that.”

TRACK POSITION. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET OF TRACK POSITION AS YOU GET CLOSER TO 50 LAPS TO GO? “You want to win a stage but the five points at the end of a race is more important to get to another win. You might try to set yourself up for the first stage win. And then after the first stage it’s really about where I can position myself to be up front. From then on you really don’t want have to move yourself up through the field. It’s really difficult to do. The cars drive fairly good. You’re mainly three-wide and it’s kind of a parking lot sometimes when you find yourself 15th and can’t get in the top-10. If you can keep yourself inside the top-10, that’ what you’re looking for the last 50 laps of the race. You have to set yourself…especially if it’s a green flag pitstop…you have to make sure you take advantage of cars pitting. And if you end up staying out with a group of cars you don’t have to have to check-up coming off of Turn 4 with other cars pitting because that’s where you lose a lot of time, a lot of track position. Green flag pit stops are tricky and I think that the way our races have

been it could come down to who executes on a green flag pitstop correctly and what team work with which teams together to make sure they get in and out in the efficient time because that’s who usually cycles out to be the leader. It’s just a lot of moving parts that go into it. But definitely with 50 laps to go you want to be inside the top-10 and stay there.”


Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.