Ford Performance NASCAR: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Press Conference

by Official Release On Fri, Sep. 22, 2017

Ford Performance MENCS Notes and Quotes
ISM Connect 300 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Friday, September 22, 2017

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion, is looking to bounce back this weekend after finishing 25th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway. Stenhouse, who is making is first Playoff appearance and is 14th in the standings, held a Q&A session this morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to talk about his situation.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion – YOU PLAYOFFS DIDN’T START LIKE YOU IMAGINED. HOW IMPORTANT DOES THIS WEEK BECOME? “It’s the worst Playoff race I’ve ever had. Actually, it was only the first Playoff race I ever had (laughter), but it did not go according to plan. Luckily, with the way the wins and the bonus points that we got, we’re still right there and still have a really good shot at it. For as bad as it went, I think we got out pretty lucky. We had an ill-driving Fastenal Ford all weekend last weekend and really couldn’t get a handle on it and then compounded by some mistakes that I made throughout the race. That was a bummer, but New Hampshire is a track that I feel like we run decent at. We got Fifth Third back on the car this weekend and I spent some time with them this week and they’re pumped up that we’re running it here at New Hampshire. We had a decent race last time we were here and I feel like over my race here we’ve had some fast cars, so I look forward to the strategy and things that we can play come Sunday. First off, we’ve got to get driving good throughout the weekend, but it makes New Hampshire and Dover very, very important.”

WHAT ARE YOUR TEAM MEETINGS LIKE AFTER A RACE LIKE LAST WEEKEND? “We had some tough meetings this week about just why we missed it. Looking back at the test that we had that we felt pretty good about at Chicago and trying to figure out where we went wrong, just trying to work through the process of why our cars weren’t any better there – really mine or Trevor’s. There were some tough meetings had, but they were productive at the same time. I’m just very fortunate that we really had some good meetings that really opened a lot of people’s eyes and really, I think, got everybody working even harder than what they already were.”

HOW DOES EVERYBODY KEEP THEIR HEAD UP? “We keep our head up because we’re only four points out, so I think that’s the key message around the shop this week was we had, by far, the worst race we could have ever thought of having and we’re still close. I think that’s the key.”

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT ENCUMBERED FINISHES AND THE POINTS THEY SHOULD GET? “I think the 24 still came out with a net gain. I think the whole garage probably looks at it that way, but does his Playoff points and his penalty really affect that cutoff line? Probably not, so if this is the second or third round I think that could come into play and would probably be talked about a little bit more, but, for us, we’re focused on just beating the cars that we’re close to in points. If he would have backed all the way up and got zero points, then all of us would have gotten more points, so it would have been pretty much a wash for the cutoff spot. But I think something like that happens in the second or third round would be pretty interesting to see what the garage thought about that.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE POWER UNDER YOUR HOOD AND WHERE IS THIS SUPPOSED ADVANTAGE THE TOYOTAS HAVE? “I think when Brad was talking about advantages it’s not just under the hood, I think he’s talking about the whole package – mainly bodies. But I think Doug has really been pushing forward and trying to advance our engine program as much as possible and I think he’s done a really good job. We’ve gotten our cars better this year, so I feel like since we’ve gotten our cars better our engines run better, so that’s no different than being here at Loudon. It’s a race track that if your car is not handling good, it’ll feel like you don’t have a good motor. You’ve got to get your car handling good to get through the corners so that – as low RPM coming off the corner – but to Brad’s comments it’s more talking about the whole thing.”

TED CHRISTOPHER PASSED AWAY LAST WEEK. HOW BIG WAS HE TO NASCAR AND THE MODIFIED COMMUNITY? “He was huge obviously in the Modifieds. I’ve never really followed much Modified racing being up here in the northeast, but I knew who Teddy Christopher was. I think he was well-known all across the country in all sorts of racing and just what he’s been able to do throughout his career, I know all the Modified guys up here looked up to somebody like him and what he’s able to accomplish, so it’s a huge loss this week. You never want to see that, especially something tragic like that.”

WHEN IT COMES TO SOCIAL MEDIA ARE YOU RELIEVED TO SEE SOMEONE LIKE BRAD COME OUT WITH A SOCIAL STATEMENT LIKE LAST WEEK, AND WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO COME OUT AND SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “For us as a team we need to be competing for wins each week, get our team and our cars competing at the level of the SHR and the Penske’s and really battling for wins week-in and week-out before I could ever really evaluate the different manufacturers. We’re working hard on our Fords to catch up with the other Fords and we know some areas we need to get better in and we’re trying to catch up to them, but that’s good for Brad. I think he’s got a better idea of where we’re lacking because they are competing with those cars week-in and week-out.”

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME OF YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES HERE AT NHMS? “For us at Loudon, we’ve always been really good on the long runs and you get quite a few long runs here at Loudon. That seems to be our strong suit. Restarts seem to be some of the areas that we need to get better at. I was on the plane ride up today just looking at our notes from this last race and that was it. We were strong on the long runs, needed to get our restarts better, and need to qualify better so that these first two stages you can really run without pitting, so that first stage it’s gonna be important to qualify well and make sure we put ourselves in a position to maybe get some stage points if it does go green, and our car is good on the long runs. We’ve got to qualify better and work on the short-run speed.”

DID YOU GET A SENSE LAST WEEK IF THE INTENSITY WAS DIFFERENT AND DO YOU HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THE NON-PLAYOFF CARS SHOULD BE DOING? “From my seat, I can’t really speak how the non-Playoff cars raced the Playoff cars and vice versa, but I thought everything was pretty good out there. I thought, for us on our team, I just felt practice and not starting off as well as what we wanted really kind of put me scrambling and a little bit worried. The way the car was driving I could tell that even though we had decent speed, I could tell the way the car was handling that it was not something I really wanted to drive for the whole race. So we made big changes and just never really got it. I felt that level up in practice of the concern of like, ‘Hey, this is it.’ But in the race I thought everybody raced hard and raced well. Going back and re-watching the race there was no spots given. Everybody was making you earn it and that’s the product of this system is you’re gonna have to race hard and take every position you can.”

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH ADVERSITY IN PRACTICE LIKE YOU DID LAST WEEK? WHAT IF THAT HAPPENS AGAIN TODAY WITH ALL OF THE ADDED PLAYOFF PRESSURE? “I think there are tracks you look at where you feel like, ‘Hey, we don’t run well there.’ There are tracks you look at and average finishes aren’t as good as what you really ran, and I think New Hampshire is one of those race tracks for us. I can count two or three times where we’ve been in the top 10 and we come down on our last pit stop and we’ve had freak accidents on pit road that we end up restarting tail end. I think that skews a little bit on the finishes, so I think we’ve got confidence that we can run with those cars that we’re chasing. The 1, the 41, the 21, the 3, I feel like we raced right around them all race the last time we were here, so it’s just about capitalizing and making sure like last week, we made so many mistakes and we were still coming out talking about being able to transfer, so, for us, it’s just keeping our head and trying to get the speed we wanted on the long run. Today, you won’t see many long runs from us. We’re gonna make a race run, kind of get back in the rhythm of a short track after being at Chicago, but then really focus on qualifying.”

DOES YOUR FOCUS SHIFT THIS WEEK TO THOSE CARS YOU JUST MENTIONED AND DOES THAT DICTATE STRATEGY TO SOME DEGREE? “Yeah, for sure. Last week, it was really an open book and we really kind of just went for it and never really focused on certain cars. I think we knew in the back of our heads which cars that we were gonna end up racing. I mean, it’s not rocket science that you can tell which cars you’re gonna end up racing for that final cutoff spot. I think for my crew chief throughout the race, whether you stay out if a late caution comes in a stage and some cars pit to set themselves up for the next stage, or stay out to win that stage or get points, I think you can almost do the opposite and work strategy throughout the whole race based off of where those cars are running.”

DID YOU AND THE 6 CAR TRADE PIT CREWS BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS STARTED? “Yes, we did.”

DID YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE? “For me, it was a bummer that we got in the fence early and then I made a commitment cone violation, so we didn’t really get to use our pit crew like I really wanted, but they were smooth. I think they worked well together. They learned me coming in the pit box and really had no issues there, so I feel really good about them.”

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