NASCAR Media Conference
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
November 15, 2012
Q. You said upstairs that this is your favorite race to run. What goes into making a track your favorite race to run?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Man, I feel like if you want to build a racetrack, you've got to build it like Homestead. The progressive banking, identical ends, so your race car is similar at both ends. The tires wear out. The older asphalt is coming to life, I guess. It wears the tires out. You slip and slide. It reminds me of racing my dirt car. You can run in on the bottom, slide up to the top, put slide jobs on guys, you can run the bottom, you can run the middle, you can run the top.
The few times I've been here I've heard, hey, you're four or five wide. That's a good racetrack when you can run bottom to top and it's kind of got a lane for everybody depending on where your car is running best. So I really enjoy it here. I think we've finished fourth and second. It's a lot of fun.
Q. When you think about the environment outside the track, how much does that go into a track being what it is?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Obviously everybody loves the weather here, we love going to South Beach and hanging around here, or the keys. But for me I look at racetracks as on racetrack. When I say favorite, if I say favorite for the fans, this is a great place. I know a lot of fans come down here for vacation, and it's a great spot, but I enjoy‑‑ outside of the racetrack and inside the racetrack here, I've got a lot of good golf here, so that's always fun. But all in all I just love this championship weekend, especially Ford being presenting sponsor of the whole weekend. Obviously for us at Roush‑Fenway, that's a huge honor and definitely another reason why we want to win the championship here. We want to win the race here. So that's what we show up for.
Q. I'm curious why this is your favorite track.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Oh, you just missed it. No, you're all right. I'll answer it again. There's a couple things that factor into this racetrack that make it my favorite. You run up near the wall is one. The tires wear out, the asphalt wears the tires out. You slide around a lot. You can run bottom, middle, top, and you can run four and five wide. It's got a lane for everyone.
I like the palm trees down the back straightaway. That's always cool. But I think our finishes here, it's just a track that I showed up to, I adapted to and I liked it. We finished fourth here our rookie year, last year we led some laps and finished second, felt like we had a really, really fast race car, and I feel like we're able to win here a couple times and hopefully this year will be it.
Q. What is your activity level like during the weekend? Are you taking it easy?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I always take it easy. I enjoy my time, whether it's flipping around off of stuff or throwing the football like I did in the motor home last night, hanging out with the guys. We're going to have all the guys over for a cookout tonight when they get here after the garage closes. I'm really relaxed. That's how I approach everything.
Almost so relaxed that I almost have to tell sponsors, hey, I'm really focused on this, but this is how I like to be. I like being relaxed, I like goofing off, don't like being uptight. I don't have any pre‑race rituals. I don't do anything the exact same every week. I could be walking around in the trailer in my boxers listening to music or messing with the guys or I can just do whatever. It doesn't matter. I could be sleeping and wake up and 15 minutes go to intros, get in the car and go race.
For me there's no set schedule of what I do. There's no, hey, I need to be really serious this weekend. I am who I am, and I enjoy it.
Q. Are you more relaxed this year than you were last year?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Heck yeah, I'm more relaxed this year. We're running better, we're winning more races, we're in contention for another championship. Our future is more‑‑ it's set. I know what I'm doing next year, and that's always comforting to know and makes you more relaxed, as well.
Q. Having been on the Nationwide circuit now, knowing all the tracks on the circuit, and when I ask this question I'm thinking just beyond the racetrack, what track would you like to see on the Nationwide Series perhaps be considered strongly for a Sprint Cup stop?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I'm trying to think of which ones the Cup cars don't go to. I would say Iowa. You know, there's not a ton right around the racetrack for fans to do, but the one good thing about Iowa is it's an awesome racetrack and they've got great fans that come out. I mean, we pack that place for a Nationwide race. I can only imagine how many grandstands they would have to add for a Cup race.
I feel like the way our Nationwide races go, they put temporary seating in, they sell it out. They add some more temporary stands and they sell them out. I can only imagine what would happen if they had a Cup race there, almost a build‑it‑and‑they‑will‑come type of thing. It's a fun racetrack. The people that run that racetrack are awesome to work with. They work very hard to make that a great race.
Q. (No microphone.)
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, you never want to get into anybody and move them out of the way. It is a short track, things do happen like that and things happen really quick. After we talked about it, I think he realized he had to lift, I had a good run, and it just happened so quick. He knows I didn't do it on purpose.
But you never want to give that intention that they might think that. Our relationship has been great, we've raced really hard. I learned a ton from him last year running for the championship, a lot of give and take that I've used this year. So it's been great. They've pushed us as a race team. We feel like we've pushed them and learned a lot from them, the veteran driver that he is. So it's been a lot of fun learning from him.
Q. You weren't celebrating anything.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: No, not at all.
Q. (No microphone.)
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I'll tell you what, I don't know cautious. And I think that worries my crew chief every weekend and worries jack, as well. I race really hard every week, every lap. You know, I've tried the cautious approach when I first started, and we didn't finish many races. I felt like I made more mistakes when I was cautious, I didn't feel like I was up on the wheel and ready to go, and so that's the way I drive, and so I've just got to go out and drive the way I know how to, and that's up on the wheel, drive it hard. I feel like Dover this year I got relaxed, and it got us in trouble. I crashed, and I think that's the most points we gave up in one race was Dover. But that was from being too relaxed and being too cautious.
I think we've got to go out and do what we've done all year that's got us to this point, and that's race hard.
Q. (No microphone.)
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I don't think so. You know, I think‑‑ obviously I think if we have a decent qualifying lap, no issues in qualifying, we should be in the top 10 somewhere. So I don't think our starting position is going to be a big issue.
You know, we'd like to start on the pole and get that No.1 pit box. That's always nice. But that's only happened four times for us this year. I'm trying to think, I don't think we've ever won from the pole, so maybe we don't need to qualify on the pole.
Q. Does having already won this championship make any difference at all to you as far as what you have to do this weekend to give you any stature?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: You know, it doesn't change how I feel about this championship. Last year‑‑ this situation is a little different than last year. I felt like last year mathematically it was still possible, it was really out of reach for Elliott. This year it's definitely in reach. A mistake by us or a tire come apart like you saw for Jimmie last week, maybe something you can't control. It's a little different. I think maybe guys are really looking at everything on the race car. They double‑ and triple‑checked it all week. They'll do the same here this weekend. I'll pay really close attention to the engine, I'll pay close attention to the transmission and the guys will look for leaks.
You kind of step up your game as far as preparation goes on the race car because that's the last thing that we want is a part failure or something to happen to the race car that we might have been able to control.
But as far as me, it would mean a lot to win two. Just because we won last year doesn't mean we're not going to go for it again this year.
Q. You've been in this position before. How does it feel different this year to a year ago?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, a year ago we felt like it was kind of out of reach. We kind of felt like we came into it really having it under control. We feel like we're under control now, but you have tire failures, you have part failures. We've broke a drive shaft this year, we've blown a tire this year. So you have things that you kind of can't control that you always worry about, and only having a 20‑point lead, that's a little nerve wracking at times, but we try to put that out of our mind and just go do our racing.
Q. Regardless of what happens here you're going to be in Cup next year driving the 17. Does that ease the pressure in any way?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it doesn't‑‑ the pressure is still on. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don't feel like I ever get any pressure from outside. I put it all on myself. I expect to go out and win every week. Our team expects to win every week. That's not going to happen every week, but you've got to show up to the racetrack with high expectations and high goals.
So there's no extra pressure, but being able to know my future, know what we're doing next year is a relief. But it doesn't take any pressure off that we have put on ourselves right now.
Q. Looking back, what will be the highlight of the 2012 season?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I think the highlight, hopefully it'll be the winning the championship. But if you want to look into it, I think our comeback win at Kansas would be kind of our defining moment that really kept us in this championship and really kind of got us back in the championship as far as cutting into that points lead that Elliott had.
Q. There's 20 points between you and your rival, same thing in Cup. How is it different between you and those guys?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It's a little different. You have a few more start‑and‑parks in our series. Our race is a little shorter, their race is a little longer. But as far as the competition goes, I don't think it's much different. Either of those guys on the Cup side can go win or run top 5 and Elliott, Austin and myself can go do the same thing. I don't think it's much different other than I think their race is‑‑ the Cup race is 67 laps more maybe.
I would say it's a fairly similar situation.
Q. With a Cup career on the horizon, how do you feel? Do you feel like a college quarterback getting ready to play his last game and wanting to go out with authority?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: That's a good way to put it. We definitely feel that way. I think we want to end on a good note. I want to leave my guys with another championship, and they got Trevor coming in to fill the seat next year. I want to leave it the best way we can, and that's on a championship form.
I think it would be a good last hurrah to finish this off.
Q. This two‑year run has been well covered that you had some tough times prior to it, big meeting with Jack and then the light switch comes on and you were able to really move forward. When you look back regardless of what the future holds, what will you take from these two years? What was the real lesson that you learned?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: You know, one is you never give up on what you're doing, no matter how hard it gets to be, whether that's throughout the year or actually in a race. We've learned this year at Kansas you never give up, and you just keep working hard. The hard work that you put in normally comes back and repays you. So never give up and work hard is really some of the things that I've learned over the past couple years here that we'll have to take into next year.
I think next year is not going to be easy, but you've got to keep that mentality that you have to keep working hard and keep your head down and dig as hard as you can to succeed, and it's going to take a lot of that next year.
Q. You and Brad are in similar situations really having to protect a lead. In his press conference he just said that dialing it back, being conservative doesn't work, it's not a good idea, it's not a good plan, just do what you did to get you here and the rest will settle itself. Going out at a track like this is it possible to find your own area to run and be conservative?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I couldn't agree with him more. I feel like me being cautious in the past has gotten us in trouble. But then again, I make my crew chief nervous as hard as I race each and every week. I think I'm going to go out and do what we've been doing all year, and that's race hard. I race for wins, want to be in the top 5 and keep working on our car. The guys on the crew, every time I come in for a pit stop are going to do the best job they can to get us out as quick as they can, and we're going to push for it.
I think you start getting defensive and worried about everybody else, you don't pay enough attention to what you're doing and maybe cause a mistake. I think pushing hard is a good plan for us on our 6 team.
Q. Looking ahead to next year, just the excitement of being in the Cup Series on a regular basis and driving that 17 car that has won championships. What are you most looking forward to?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Looking forward to learning. You know, it's always fun when you're learning new things, and I think that's kind of the key for us is we have to keep an open mind. Just because we've had success in the Nationwide Series doesn't mean that I'm going to jump in and automatically have success.
I'm looking forward to learning a lot, building a relationship with a new crew. I've been with my guys for three years now, and that's going to be tough to part ways, but build that relationship back up with a new team that's hopefully as motivated as I am. We've got to set goals, and we'll set those goals in the off‑season, but we've got stuff that we've got to look forward to.
Q. I was talking to Austin about the cowboy hats, and he said you both wear them.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah.
Q. He said he does because he likes the identity. Why do you wear it?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I just enjoy it. Where Austin is from, where I'm from, a lot of people wear them. I enjoy it, and I know Austin enjoys it. It's kind of cool. A lot of people recognize it. He's got a different hat company than I do, so we don't wear the same exact hat, but it's cool that people recognize it.
Q. When you stepped out of the car this morning I thought you were a country star.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: That's good. I wish I could be a country star. I can't sing. I wish I could sing. That's probably one of the things if I could change I would like to be able to sing.
Q. That racing mindset, is it one race at a time, one lap at a time, one point at a time?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I mean, you're always thinking about points from the start of Daytona on. You know, I think you've got to take it one lap at a time because you've got to finish the race. If you don't finish every lap, you're not going to get those points that you're looking for each race, which add up to obviously all year. You've got to be mindful of what you're doing, and if the car is not great, take what it gives you for that run and go work on it the next run. That's really all you can do.
Q. What is it do you think that it takes a contender to rise up to be a champion?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: To be a champion it starts with great equipment, great team, great personnel, and that's from engines to chassis to suspension. It's everything, the aero package, the guys putting the bodies on in the shop, my guys on the road double checking everything. You can't have failures and expect to win championships. You can't make too many mistakes and expect to become a champion driver or a champion team.
We work very hard. My guys are very focused. When I make mistakes, they rally behind me. When they make mistakes, I rally behind them. It's a huge team effort, and you've just got to be prepared to work as hard as you can throughout the season to accomplish your goals. There's no slacking off in this sport.
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