Ford Performance NSCS Notes and Quotes
Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race – Bristol Motor Speedway
Friday, August 19, 2016
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Fusion, stopped by the Bristol Motor Speedway infield media center after today’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session to talk about his friend, Bryan Clauson, and how he is honoring him this weekend.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Fastenal Ford Fusion – “I’m super-excited about the paint scheme that Fastenal and Roush Fenway let us run this weekend. It’s a paint scheme that Bryan (Clauson) ran in 2008. Bryan was a great friend of Kyle’s (Larson) and mine. I moved to North Carolina and he was already there. Even though he was younger, I kind of always looked at him as an older brother because he kind of did everything before I did. He let me move in with him and we had a lot of fun in North Carolina. He showed me the ropes of stock car racing and then obviously he was the best there was running sprint cars, so to be able to run his paint scheme, his family is super-excited and we are too at our team.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU TO DRIVE BRIAN’S CAR AROUND KNOXVILLE THURSDAY NIGHT? “Kyle was in Knoxville and when they came up with the thought of doing it, Kyle asked me if I’d be interested in coming and I said, ‘No doubt, I would be.’ I wasn’t really looking forward to going after everything that happened, but being with the racing family and the community there was the best thing for everybody, especially when Lauren and Tim and the rest of Bryan’s family – Di and Taylor, his sister – when they came and we were able to hang out all night. We were telling stories until 5 a.m. on Thursday night/Friday morning about all the good stories that we had of Bryan and the amazing things he did inside and out of the race car. To drive his car was one of those things that Bryan let me drive his midgets for him and we have some races planned that we did this year. I drove another sprint car during one of our off weeks with him, so to get back in his car and give it another trip around Knoxville, which he really loved being at Knoxville, there was not a dry eye in Knoxville when we took that car around. As Bryan always said we parked it in victory lane for him and it was super-emotional.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT NIGHT RACING AND WHY DO SOME DRIVERS EXCEL AT NIGHT? “I agree 100 percent. Us dirt track guys that grew up switching lanes and just trying to find where our car works best, the day racing provides that for us. I think the cars and the sparks and everything you see at night are exciting as well, but as a driver I definitely like the day races better.”
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO SPEND TIME WITH THE SPRINT CAR FAMILY LAST WEEK, INSTEAD OF RACING IN CUP AND HAVE YOU HAD ANY GRASSHOPPER MOMENTS? “I’ll tell you a quick story about grasshoppers. Lauren and Bryan were on the way back from Kansas to Knoxville the week before and Bryan does not like bugs at all. There was a grasshopper that got in the truck and he kept thinking it was touching his leg and Lauren kept laughing at him, so that kind of started the whole grasshopper thing. And then when we were sitting in the motorhome Lauren was messing around with Bryan’s suit a couple days after he had passed and a grasshopper came out from underneath in between his suit, so thinking that was a sign that Bryan was still there with us. I think a lot of people have seen a lot of moments like that. I was leaving Knoxville on Friday and they were doing a big auction for Bryan and I was giving everybody a hug goodbye before heading to the airport. Tim and myself were hugging it out and right in between us on the fence line there was a grasshopper there, so that was pretty cool. And I know a lot of people in the racing community have seen that a lot, so it’s kind of cool just keeping your eyes open for it, but it was really important to spend a lot of time with Tim and everybody – Kyle. We were all in the motorhome just talking things out. It was good for all of us to be with each other.
“We all loved Bryan and I think one of the things Tim and Lauren and the whole family wanted to express is they really appreciated everybody’s support and prayers throughout the whole time they were there at the hospital and even now, but one thing they wanted to make sure everybody know is that when they found out that Bryan was an organ donor, and knowing that he was still helping people outside of the race car like he always did, helped them have a lot of closure that he was still helping people even though he wasn’t there. They wanted to make sure that everyone was encouraged to maybe check that box and become an organ donor. I know that means a lot to them now. Another thing that Bryan was super-passionate about was the Autism Society. We do a big benefit the Monday night of Chili Bowl and talking with Tim, Bryan’s dad, Kyle and I were gonna give the family our helmets, but I think we’re gonna auction them off at that event on Monday night of Chili Bowl week.”
HOW HAVE THINGS GONE THIS SEASON AND DO YOU FEEL THINGS ARE GETTING CLOSER TO WHERE YOU AND THE ORGANIZATION WANT TO BE? “I would say not close to where we want to be, but we’re definitely better than where we were. I think I’ve still got to clean up some of my mistakes when we have better race cars and make sure we get the finishes out of them. We’ve had some bad luck this year. I think we’ve blown three tires when we were running close to the top 10, so we’ve had some bad luck races, which everybody has, but looking back those are a few that stand out to us. My mistake at Watkins Glen, that was the best I had ever been on a road course and thought I had close to a top-10 car and just made a mistake being too aggressive, so I think if we continue to make our cars a little bit better and clean up our mistakes, we’ll definitely be close to where we want to be, but we still have a long ways to go. But I’m definitely excited about everything that Roush Fenway has been doing.”
HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR CHASE CHANCES RIGHT NOW? “For us, I think we’ve got to win. Unfortunately, after my mistake at Watkins Glen that kind of put us to where we need to win one of the next few. And then even looking at that, I think Chris Buescher is gonna be in the top-30 in points, so you’re really looking even a spot ahead of where Kyle is, so I would say we’ve got to win.”