NASCAR Media Conference
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
November 15, 2012
RUSTY WALLACE: As with the Truck Series, we're going to bring up all three Nationwide Series drivers to the stage, and I'll tell you what, they're the last three standing will. They've got a lot of pressure on them, and we've had 32 races this year. There's been a lot of wrecking and banging, a lot of excitement going on, and it's getting right down to the wire. It features a lot of veterans and some up‑and‑comers, so this is going to be a great year for them, a great last for them. I think they're all excited and ready to go.
Now let's meet the three championship contenders in the Nationwide Series. Coming into Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300, third place, 25 points out of the lead is last year's Camping World Truck Series champion, and he's Ty Dillon's older brother, but still he's only 22 years old, welcome, please, give a hand for the driver of the No.3 AdvoCare Chevrolet, Austin Dillon.
Second place in the Nationwide Series standings is last year's runner‑up, and he's won four times this year, and he comes in 20 points out of the lead. Here's the driver of the No.2 One Main Financial Chevrolet for RCR, Elliott Sadler.
And now our points leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He's got a season‑high six victories, a lot of wins. He's also had a chance to become the sixth driver in history to win back‑to‑back Nationwide Series championships. Let's welcome the driver of the No.6 Ford EcoBoost Ford for Roush‑Fenway Racing, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Thanks for joining us today; we really appreciate it. We'll start off with some opening comments from each one of you.
Austin, you won the Truck Series championship last year and now you've had a fantastic rookie season in the Nationwide Series. What's it like to have such a great career at such a young age?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, the best thing about this is it's been a good rookie year, and coming into the series, you expect‑‑ you want to set your goals high, and we did going into this year. Our first goal was to win Rookie of the Year, and I think we've pretty much accomplished that. And then having a chance to come to Homestead with a championship shot, and we gave ourselves that. We accomplished two of our goals, and very proud of that, and then also getting to victory lane.
I can't thank all of my guys, RCR and everything that's worked really well together this year. It's been a great year.
RUSTY WALLACE: Elliott, this year you and Ricky have swapped the points lead five times this season. What would it mean for you to have one more swap Saturday and try to close this deal?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, I think it would be a good story line if we swap it six times this year, that's what I think. Last was definitely a tough race for us. I made a mistake and put our team in a hole coming here to Homestead. 20 points is not undoable, but we know Ricky really runs well at this racetrack. But us for our team need to go out and do the best job we can this weekend, try to run up front, lead some laps, try to win the race and just let the points fall where they may.
I'm not disappointed at all in the season we've had. We've won a lot of races, won some poles, been in the points lead. At a majority of the races this year we've definitely opinion in contention, and that's what our goal was when we went to Daytona.
We've just got one more race to try to finish it off, and we're going to put our best foot forward and see where it takes us on Saturday.
RUSTY WALLACE: Now to our points leader, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Five drivers have won back‑to‑back NASCAR Nationwide Series championships, Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. What would it mean for you to join that group?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: That would be huge. You know, that was the goal that we set coming into this year. I think we set a few goals; we wanted to win six to ten races and I was hoping we were going to be closer to ten, but the six is a great accomplishment for our team.
I think we've ran a lot better. We've scored way more points than we did last year, and even going into last weekend we were tied in points. So I think it's a testament to this series and how well Elliott and his guys have ran and Austin and his guys. Seems like the level of competition has really stepped up this year, and that's really cool to see. It's been fun to be a part of.
We're coming down to my favorite racetrack, so I can't think of a better place to finish it off.
RUSTY WALLACE: Kerry, it's all yours.
KERRY THARP: Ladies and gentlemen, you all know the drill. If you have a question, raise your hand, and we'll hear from Elliott, we'll hear from Ricky and we'll hear from Austin.
Q. I'm just curious, in other years and some of the different series, there's been a lot of playful interaction heading into the championship weekend. What is the relationship between the three of you, and is there much kidding going on? Is there much talking, trash talking going on? What had a that been like?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Well, I think you know us. There's a lot of talking going on. We get along. We've been with each other the last‑‑ Elliott and I have, the last two years racing, parked in the garage next to each other every week, and our teams get along, we fly on the same planes. If you don't get along, it makes for a long season.
This year has been fun with these guys, bringing Austin in with us, and it's just been, I guess, a regular relationship if you want to call it, friendship. You always get on the racetrack, each one of us want to beat each other as much as the other one does, and we go out to do that every week.
But off the racetrack it's a friendship.
ELLIOTT SADLER: I'll second that. I think Ricky and I learned a lot about each other last year, like he said, parking next to each other, and it's a mutual respect. I think he makes me better as a race car driver and I learned things from him, and I think he learned things from me. And I think we definitely want to outrun each other on the racetrack but we want to do it the right way.
It's been fun the last two years, so I think it's‑‑ hadn't really been a talking, mouthing back and forth relationship, it's been more that I know my team and I need to outrun them, and I think they know they need to outrun us, and that's the kind of relationship we've had the last two years, so I think it kind of boils down to that.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I get along with both of them, but I hope it gets nasty on Saturday personally. I hope they door slam each other off of Turn 4 and I make it through the smoke.
No, I'm actually waiting for Elliott to get back Ricky when he owes him at Richmond and Bristol this year. I'm still trying to figure out when that's going to happen.
Q. Talking about relationships, I see that you're getting so‑so along with them. What is the situation at home with Ty? This is another relationship that probably is not going so well for bragging rights in the family, huh?
AUSTIN DILLON: For me and Ty? No, we've had good years. It's a great week with coming to Homestead and both having a chance to win a championship. RCR won the Cup race last week. That was really big for our team, and welcome to North Carolina. It's good right now. Yeah, it's a good year other than ‑‑ I am pushing Ty. I hope he can finish off the championship, and I think he's got a great shot going into Friday.
Q. Ricky, you found out during the season that you'd be moving up to Cup next year. What was the impact of that on this year for you? Was it sort of an emotional lift for you or did the races you ran on the other side take some time away from Nationwide? What was the balance of all that?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: You know what, the announcement, I guess, was kind of exciting, the news of going into the 17 car with Matt's sponsors, Best Buy, Zest and Fifth Third. But Jack and I had been talking about running a fourth Cup car anyway next year, so it really wasn't news that we were going to go full‑time in Cup. We had already kind of had that in the works.
It didn't really change my outlook on the season, but it is comforting knowing that you have that already in place. Last year I came into Homestead, we won the championship and we still didn't know if we were running Cup or Nationwide for 2012 until the end of December. So that's always nerve‑wracking.
It's always nice to have that in the back of your mind. I really haven't thought anything about 2013 since we've made that announcement because we've got a job to do here.
Q. Elliott, I'm just wondering if you're down by 20 points and maybe you can't make that up on the track, do you kind of have to openly root for Ricky to blow a tire or somebody to wreck him or something along those lines?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Honestly, I think when you're inside the car, I've always been more focused on what we're doing. If something happens to Ricky, we're going to try to take advantage of it, but it's not like I'm riding around waiting for something to happen to him. We've got to go out and run our race and see where it takes us because if we don't run our race and do our job, it doesn't matter if something happens bad to him or not anyway.
We might throw a banana peel under his trailer since we park beside him anyway before the race starts and see if that will help him out a little bit. But the way we're looking at it, we've got to go do our job and just kind of see where the chips fall.
Q. So much talk about the identity of the Nationwide Series, and with trucks it's tough trucks, and headed into this championship, and you guys have all sort of roles in different levels where you're at. Where do you see the identity of this series headed into this championship run?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think the series has done a great job the last couple years creating a great identity. I think it's got a lot of story lines, it's got a lot of promising drivers in this series, and Ricky just talked about how many points we've scored this year. You've got to run really good to be a part of the series, and I think the Nationwide regulars won a lot of races this year, which is good. It seems like that number is growing every single year since people have started to keep account of that now because of the points system.
So I think honestly that the Nationwide Series and Nationwide as a company has done a great job identifying different drivers in this series, and I feel like we're doing a good job as far as competition on the racetrack. I think those guys know when they come down to race, the guys that race on Sunday that come here to race on Saturday, it's not really going to be handed to them. They've got to battle to try to get to victory lane, and I think that's definitely good for the sport and it's good for the Nationwide Series.
AUSTIN DILLON: I agree with what Elliott is saying that when the Cup guys come down that they have to really know that we're not going to give it to them and we're racing for a championship and a win, just as they are. It has, I think, changed the identity of the sport the last few years, and it's very cool to be out here and driving against these guys. Just to have a chance to go into a championship weekend, it's pretty cool, and have three drivers, or two last year, so there's three this year, and then you can actually throw in Sam Hornish had a great year. For a long time there was four of us dicing it up pushing each other to get those top 5s.
Q. Ricky, you're on the entry list for Cup. Are you running that race, and was there any thought about not running it or were you thinking that especially with you working with Scott next year that was important to do this race?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: No, Jack asked me if I thought it was going to be a problem, and I never did. I think we're race car drivers, I've ran the Nationwide car for the last three years now, and I know the feel that I'm looking for in that. So when I jump over in the Cup car, it doesn't really throw me off any. I come back to the Nationwide car and I know exactly what I need to do in the Nationwide car. I like track time; I like being on the racetrack. For race car drivers we hate listening to cars practicing and we're sitting in the garage or sitting in the motor home watching it.
I think it's going to be a great weekend for us running both, and to get another race in with Scott before next year I think is going to be a huge help, too.
Q. Elliott, we saw your initial reaction last weekend owning up to making a mistake. When you removed yourself when it all, gone from the racetrack, how did those emotions change, and what were those emotions once you kind of had solitude and were away from the circus?
ELLIOTT SADLER: That's a really good question. I still take the blame. It's one or two things that happened on the racetrack last week that could have really changed where we finished and how our racing points could have been different at the end of the race, a little break here, a little different line there, a little not mistake here or there. So things could have been definitely different.
But I look back on it as a mistake and I talked to my team about it and could have done a better job, but I've got to come back this weekend 100 percent focused and ready to go and try to make up a really big deficit at a tough racetrack as far as giving up points from Ricky's side.
It was a tough week. It's been a long week just because I felt like I put ourselves in a really big hole. We've got to have a really big weekend this weekend.
KERRY THARP: That concludes our NASCAR Nationwide Series question‑and‑answer session. I want to thank Elliott, Ricky and Austin for being up here today, and all three of them will be available downstairs in our breakout sessions later this afternoon.
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