Ford Performance NASCAR: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Q&A Session at Richmond

Ford PR

Ford Notes and Quotes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

Toyota Owners 400 Advance (Richmond Raceway; Richmond, VA)

Friday, April 20, 2018
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion, has had a good week leading up to this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.  On Monday, he registered his best finish of the season with a fourth-place run at Bristol Motor Speedway, and on Tuesday it was announced that partners Fastenal, Fifth Third Bank and SunnyD have all renewed agreements through 2021.  Stenhouse spoke about all of that good news this morning before practice at Richmond Raceway.


RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS WEEK?  “It was a great week for us – something that we’ve been working really hard at Roush Fenway on, just trying to take care of the people that take care of us.  I think this week proved that everybody was really happy with what we were doing on and off the track.  Obviously, we want to get our on-track performance better.  We still have a lot of work to do there to be competitive on every type of race track and have opportunities to win at every track, kind of like we did last weekend at Bristol, but to come off a good run and announce our partnerships going forward, I think it says a lot also that the contracts technically weren’t even up for those partners of ours with Fifth Third, Fastenal and SunnyD.  But they wanted to continue throughout the rest of my contract, so that was cool and we look forward to Richmond.  It was a good race for us last year, a couple races that we’ve had here, and it will be different.  I like racing during the day here.  The track presents itself more opportunities to run around on the race track when it’s during the day, but night racing is cool here, too.”


THE ALL-STAR RACE WILL HAVE A DIFFERENT PACKAGE.  DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANYTHING FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG WITH THE REGULAR INTERMEDIATE RACE PACKAGE WE HAVE NOW?  “I don’t really know if there’s anything fundamentally wrong.  I think putting restrictor plates on them will definitely probably bunch us up a little bit more.  I think they just become a little bit easier to drive and you’re just probably going to be able to be around each other a lot more.  I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with what we’ve got, either, but for the All-Star Race and kind of what you’re looking at to be a short race, super-competitive, I think it’ll probably be that.  I think we’ll just have to see how it plays out.  I didn’t get to run the XFINITY car when they had a similar package at Indy, but watching the race everybody was really closed up and I think the excitement level will be pretty good.”


DOES THE 4 OR 18 TEAM SCARE YOU ONE MORE THAN THE OTHER RIGHT NOW?  “No, I try not to focus on either one of them (laughing).  They’re kind of in a different league compared to where my team and we are.  We look at every given week I feel like there are five cars that kind of separate themselves after the first or second practice as, ‘All right, those cars are quite a bit faster than everybody else this week.’  Right now, we’re not at the point where we can really focus on the speed in their cars and going to race them.  We look at sixth to 12th and we want to kind of be in that range because we know that’s the capability of what we’ve got right now.  For me, I’d rather the 4 win every race, so less people win and the more opportunity for somebody like us to get in on points if we need to.  It doesn’t really bother me that a couple people are winning most of the races, but those two are definitely, by far, the fastest cars out there right now.

“I don’t know, I was kind of joking with Truex when we were out in Fontana.  I was like, ‘It doesn’t seem like you have the speed that you did last year or where you want to be.’  And he’s like, ‘Oh, we’re right on par,’ and then he won.  I think it’ll be interesting to see kind of how the year plays out, knowing that, to me, the 78 is kind of just doing what they want and just kind of chilling for a while.  I don’t know, it’ll be interesting to see.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE SWITCH TO MUSTANG FOR CUP NEXT YEAR?  “I’ve definitely put a Mustang in Victory Lane a lot more often that I did the Fusion so far, but, for us, the tradition of the Mustang in Ford’s heritage it is their race car and one they’ve been winning with for many, many years and I think it will be cool to get it into the Cup Series with the Camaro.  I think that will be a cool thing for Ford and Chevy to have both of their iconic cars to be in our top-level series.  I know Ford has been working hard.  They’ve worked hard with our teams to get feedback and input, so I think we’re all excited to get it on track and kind of see how it handles and performs next year.”


HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS YOUR SHORT TRACK PROGRAM AT RFR RIGHT NOW?  “I don’t think we got a fair shake at Martinsville to kind of really compare our package from last year to this year.  I felt our car that we had in practice was really good on the long runs and that was something that paid off for us at Martinsville.  When I got wheel-hopped there and crashed that car, we didn’t get any laps on our race car and that presented a couple of problems in the race – one major problem that we couldn’t really fix while we were out there, so it was kind of a disastrous race just kind of riding around not being able to race anybody because of the issues that we had.  Coming to Bristol, Bristol is always one of our better tracks – the high loads, the high-banking, being able to move the car around, it’s just my favorite race track that we go to, so we always run well there.  Richmond, like I said, we were really good last year on the long runs and that seemed to pay off for us, so I think we’ll be able to more assess our short track package after Richmond, being that I didn’t really give it a fair shake at Phoenix or Martinsville.”


HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HEADING TO TALLADEGA?  “Heading to Talladega is something I’m excited about.  It’s always fun to go back and try to defend our race win.  That’s something I always enjoyed in the XFINITY Series is going to a race track where you were the last winner of that race, so it’ll be fun to get back there.  It’s always cool having a bunch of friends and family come in town for that one as well, so I always look forward to Talladega.  This is a good stretch for us.  Texas, we had a really good car and had a shot at a win, restarting third before our right-front hub burned up.  We put ourselves in position to win a race there.  We put ourselves in position to win at Bristol, and if we can kind of keep the momentum going here at Richmond, Talladega, Kansas, Dover, it’s just a really good stretch of race tracks that I enjoy.”

STEVE NEWMARK WAS COMPLIMENTARY OF YOUR MATURITY OVER THE YEARS AT ROUSH, PARTICULARLY AT THE RACE SHOP IN MEETINGS.  WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE FOR YOU?  “I think, for me, I try to pick-and-choose when I jump up in meetings and say something.  I think, for one, I got to know for sure that whatever I’m thinking is 100 percent the right way.  You don’t want to jump up in meetings and give your opinions, but lead your team down the wrong path at the same time.  I kind of pick-and-choose talking with Brian Pattie.  I get a lot of information from him on things that we’re doing at the race shop, and we kind of put our heads together and decide what we want to do and go forward, but I think the relationship with Brian, him giving me more information and I’m more aware of what we’ve got going on at the race shop being in all the meetings that I go to, so that’s enjoyable.  When I first got to Roush Fenway, I signed my contract at the end of 2007, so I’ve been there a while.  I would just kind of sit back and I had Matt (Kenseth), Carl (Edwards) and Greg (Biffle) kind of do everything, so as each one of them kind of left and I was transitioning to the guy has been there the longest it’s definitely different, but I enjoy the process.  I enjoy calling our sponsors and talking to them and going on vacation with some of them, just staying in touch with them throughout the weeks, being in the shop and the meetings and giving feedback.  I enjoy that process as well.”


YOU MENTIONED CARL, GREG AND MATT.  THEY’RE ALL NO LONGER IN THE SPORT.  HAS THAT SHOWED YOU HOW FAST THINGS CAN COME TO AN END IN THIS SPORT?  “Yeah, for sure.  It’s tough.  I think each one of their situations may have been a little bit different, but this sport is tough.  It’s not the sport that it used to be, where you just kind of raced forever and keep digging.  We’ve had a huge movement of younger drivers coming in and I think obviously some of those guys got their seats kind of filled.  Carl, I guess he just wanted to go sit on a tractor and hang out, which I don’t blame him.  I like sitting on my tractor and being on my John Deere throughout the week and hanging out and enjoying that, but I talk to Carl every now and then and he’s definitely enjoying that.  I think any sport there comes a point where it seems like all of a sudden a group or a class, if you want to call it, kind of transitions out and I think we’re just in that time frame of drivers kind of transitioning out.”

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.