Ford Performance NASCAR: Ricky Stenhouse Talladega Q&A Session

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Alabama 500 Advance – Talladega Superspeedway

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Sunny D Ford Fusion, has won the last two restrictor plate races at Talladega and Daytona.  He comes into this weekend 12th in the Playoff standings, 10 points behind the eighth-place transfer position with two races remaining.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Sunny D Ford Fusion – ARE YOU THE TEAM TO BEAT THIS WEEKEND?  “I would like to think so.  I know we’re gonna have a fast car.  The Sunny D Ford will be good.  I’m not really worried about the speed in our car.  I feel like Jimmy Fennig and Brian Pattie and the guys on the 17 team work really hard on building our speedway cars and getting them prepared, so I feel good about that.  But I think the biggest thing for me is you’ve got to have these things play out exactly right.  I feel like the last two played out really well for us and we were able to capitalize on good fortune for us and cautions coming out at the right time and missing wrecks, so you’ve got to have a fast car and be a little lucky at the same time and get the job done when it comes time.  But I feel like we’re capable of doing it, but I’m definitely just not counting on it.”

HOW MUCH WILL STAGE POINTS CHANGE THE DYNAMIC OF THIS RACE FOR THE PLAYOFF DRIVERS?  “I think it’s gonna change it quite a bit.  The last time we were here we qualified up front.  I really wanted to get stage points in that first run and then we kind of gave up on the second run, set ourselves up for the final run to the end.  I think this weekend come Sunday if I can win two stages and get 20 points, I could vault ourselves ahead of the cutoff line, so I think the Playoff points are pretty beneficial right now.  I think you’re gonna see at least 10 of us racing really hard for that – Larson, maybe Kyle Busch, probably feel pretty comfortable, maybe not getting up in the mix the whole time and missing out on some stage points because I feel like they’re a little bit further ahead, but there are a lot of us within 20 points of each other, so I think that’s gonna be key is how hard we’re gonna race for those stage points.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT JIMMIE JOHNSON NOT GETTING PENALIZED LAST WEEK AND THEN THE COMMENTS BY NASCAR THIS WEEK THAT THERE MIGHT BE SOME RULES THAT NOT ALL TEAMS KNOW ABOUT?  “I got pretty close to my right-front being out of my pit box at Dover and my crew chief later that week sat me down and was like, ‘Look, if your right-front is out of the pit box it’s a lap penalty,’ and that was before Charlotte.  We were pretty clear on what the rules are.  I didn’t re-watch the race and see everything that happened to the 48, but I guess it is what it is.  We can’t really do anything about it.  There are a lot of rules, though.  I don’t know.”

TOYOTA HAS WON THE FIRST FOUR PLAYOFF RACES.  WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON WHY?  “I feel they have a good combination.  I feel like they started the season not super-strong, kind of worked their way up as the season went along and I’d say they’re peaking at the right time.  I felt like at the beginning of the season our Fords were really strong when the Toyotas weren’t, but I think it’s kind of flip-flopped now.  I feel like Chevy has kind of maintained that middle ground.  I thought Kevin’s performance last week showed well for some Fords.  We’re not at that level yet of where he was last week, but I thought he really flew the banner for our Ford cars last week, leading laps and running up front.  He qualified up front, so I would definitely say they have a little bit of an advantage, but like I’ve told people before I don’t complain about different manufacturers until I’m the top car with the Ford manufacturer.  We still have work to do on our team to make sure that we keep climbing up on the Ford side.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAR YOU WON WITH?  “It’s still sitting in storage.  I went and saw it the other day.  We put it off to the side.  I told Jack I wanted it and we’ll figure that out at the end of the season, but it’s still sitting there.  Our Daytona car was our backup Tallladega car that we ran, and the team tried to talk me into re-doing our first car that we had here at Talladega and I told them, ‘We can win with our backup,’ and then we won at Daytona, so I felt pretty good about that.   And then I told them they could build a brand new one for here just as good, so they feel like our Sunny D Ford this weekend is really good and feel confident about what we brought.”

DID YOU ENVISION YOUR FIRST WIN COMING ON A PLATE TRACK AND DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD EVER POSSIBLY MATCH AN EARNHARDT RECORD?  “No and no.  Throughout my whole XFINITY career I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know about the speedways.’  They weren’t my favorite.  We ran decent on them.  We ran good, but I never really felt like I  knew how to put myself in position for our team to win, so the mile-and-a-half and short tracks I always felt like were our two good tracks in the XFINITY Series and then on the Cup side, especially here at Talladega it’s always been a track where we’ve been pretty consistent and, like I said, missing wrecks and getting good finishes, but I guess I didn’t not see my first win coming at a speedway.  I think a lot of people’s first wins seem to come at speedways for the obvious reasons, but maybe tying Earnhardt is really cool, just to have the opportunity.  I didn’t know that stat until I sat right here, so I try not to look at things too much and really focus on each week that’s coming up.  It would be awesome to get a third win this season and three in a row on superspeedways.  I’m enjoying them more now than I used to.  I used to not really enjoy them because I feel like you’re outcome could be in a lot of other people’s hands, but now after I’d say the last five or six speedway races I’ve ran I feel like I’ve learned a lot and I’m able to do more with our car than I maybe wasn’t able to do early in my career.  So I’m getting to where I enjoy them a lot more.”

DOES THAT COME FROM WINNING, THE BELIEF THAT YOU CAN DO MORE?  “Yeah, for sure.  I felt like I learned a lot and then when we finally won here last time I was like, ‘OK, my spotter and I worked really well together and we know what it takes to win,’ so when we had the red flag at Daytona late in the race we felt confident of what we needed to do to win that race.  Yeah, I think that just continues to grow each time.”

HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE ATTENTION YOU’RE GETTING AT THIS TRACK?  “I think, for us, just have fun, enjoy it.  We know it’s a race track that our cars are gonna be fast and let’s just go out and race and have fun and see how it all plays out.  We know good and well that you could get caught up in something fairly easy and be out of it, but, for me, it’s just enjoy.  I’ve got a lot of friends that always come to this race and family, so it’s hanging out with them throughout the weekend and hanging out on the boulevard on Friday night is always fun, so we’ll be doing that with my buddies and family and just enjoy the weekend and not really sit around and think about how this race is gonna play out.  I try not to play out the races in my head because I feel like it never works out that way, so I really just kind of show up, get in the car and go for it.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE ON THE BOULEVARD?  “It’s a sight to see, that’s for sure.  It’s always fun.  Russell has got me to come do the big one on the Boulevard since the first year they had it and it’s just something that all of us drivers get to hang out and go do and kind of interact with the fans, and kind of get grossed out at some point, but it’s just a lot of fun seeing our fans have a lot of fun.”

WHAT MAKES FORD SPECIAL AT SUPERSPEEDWAYS?  “We work hard at making sure we work with other Ford drivers.  I think Doug’s engine package fits these race track really well.  There are some other race tracks that I feel like some of the rules have hurt our Fords a little bit.  I feel like anytime I can keep the RPMs up on our car, I feel like they seem to run a little better, so I think Doug’s got a good package.  We work hard on our cars.  I think a lot of the crew chiefs on the Ford cars really have always taken a liking to speedways and take pride in it and really pay attention to all the small details, so I think that helps as well.   And then we always meet on the weekend.  All the Ford drivers get together and figure out a game plan of what we’re gonna do and how we’re gonna work together and make sure that one of us succeed.  Edsel is coming this weekend and it’s important for us to get him back in Victory Lane.”

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.