This Week in Ford Racing: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Championship Edition

by Official Release On Tue, Nov. 20, 2012

[media-credit name=”Tom Pennington/Getty Images” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Ricky Stenhouse Jr. capped off his remarkable 2012 season with his second straight NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, becoming just the sixth driver to earn back-to-back titles in Series history. Stenhouse, talked with Ford Racing about a myriad of topics in Miami, Florida, after the win had sunk in.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 6 Ford Mustang – WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “That everybody’s hard work paid off. We started the season out looking forward to running up front each week and going for a championship and when it is all said and done, looking at that trophy is what it is all about. Seeing my guys happy shows that a lot of peoples hard work paid off.”

TALK ABOUT MOVING UP TO THE CUP LEVEL NEXT YEAR. “It is going to be fun. Obviously it was a tough deal for Matt (Kenseth) to run his last race on Sunday and we have big shoes to fill. He is a champion in the Sprint Cup Series and at Roush and he won races. It is going to be big shoes to fill but we have to go in with open minds and making sure that we can learn as much as we can and do the best that we can and learn as much as we can and keep getting better and better.”

HOW COOL IS IT TO WIN CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS? “Consecutive championships are really cool, especially after having a Rookie of the Year in 2010 and following up with a championship last year. Last year we felt we did a good enough job to win the championship obviously but we wanted to accomplish more this year. We wanted to win more races, be in contention to win more, and that is what we did. I feel like this one was more special than the last one just because it felt like we performed a lot better and we gave up some points when we probably didn’t need to, but it all worked out.”

WERE YOU ABLE TO GET MUCH OUT OF YOUR HANDFUL OF CUP RACES THIS YEAR THAT YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU NEXT YEAR? “I think so. It is going to take some more adjustment but I go into qualifying and we struggled in qualifying this year on the few Cup races we ran because I went and drove it like my Nationwide car and you can’t do that. With all the horsepower you have to lift, you have to use the brakes. Going back and looking at our qualifying lap at even Homestead, I didn’t lift all the way in three and four and we got tight. I have to learn that. Throughout the races we have run this year I think I have learned how to be more patient with the race car. I will have a lot more time to work on it with the Cup side. On the Nationwide side you have to be good off the bat. In the Cup side I think you have time to keep working on it and continue to get it better.”

WILL THE CHANGE IN CARS NOT BE SUCH A BIG DEAL FOR YOU IN THE SENSE YOU HAVEN’T DRIVEN MUCH OF THE OTHER ONES? “I don’t think I will be at an advantage but I think it will be closer. The guys will be learning the aero packages and things like that. I was talking to Carl (Edwards) and he said he thought this was a perfect time to come in being that there is a new car and people haven’t raced them. It is definitely going to be closer but I am still not quite at the same level. I don’t have to unlearn anything, that is true, but I am going to have to still learn something totally different from the Nationwide car. It may be totally different for them too but I am going to say it is going to be a lot closer to the Cup car they have been running.”

WHAT IS THE BEST LESSON YOU GOT IN NATIONWIDE THAT WILL HELP YOU TRANSITION TO SPRINT CUP? “Patience. I am still working on that though. I still don’t have the patience I need. I like to drive hard every lap. I like to give the fans something to talk about. That is the way I have always driven. In Sprint cars we either won or had spectacular crashes. It was always fun because the fans were always talking about us, one way or another. That is the way I drive. The patience I have learned the last couple years is definitely better than 2010 but it still needs to get better.”

DID YOU UNDERSTAND MIKE KELLEY’S DECISION NOT TO MOVE UP WITH YOU? “I did, yes. Mike and I have a close relationship and I am close with his family and his kids and I understand how much they mean to him and they should. They are young right now and he needs to be home with them and I can understand that. I think that if I look at it, it is almost perfect. I can get in, learn these cars, learn what I want in a race car on the Cup side and if things work out and he is ready to come up eventually then I will be ready for him. It won’t be two people learning at the same time. I think it could be perfect down the road.”

HOW HAS JACK ROUSH SHAPED YOUR CAREER IN NASCAR? “He has been great. A lot of owners could have very easily given up. If I was an owner I probably would have given up. It was difficult at the start but Jack believed in what I could do. I always tell him joking around that he still had two eyes when I first started, so I think he could see better our potential back then. I joke with him a lot about that. I have also gotten to be a good fabricator. I can build quarter panels, fenders and sides. There are a lot of good things that came out of it. He is a great owner to work with. We have a lot of fun together. I feel like he is family in the sense that he loves my Dad – I think he likes my Dad more than he likes me. They are always up to something. If it isn’t coming from Jack it is coming from Dad and then they talk and it is coming from both. They try to keep me on a straight line. He has been a lot of fun to work with and I definitely owe him a lot. Jack is quick to remind me though about things. I crashed at Dover earlier this year and Jack said, ‘You know, you probably cost yourself the championship right there.’ I thought, ‘Jack, we haven’t even gotten to the second Dover race yet.’ I said, ‘Jack, what about the drive shaft that broke the week before?’ He is funny. We argue all the time. Me and Jack have a good relationship. It has been a really good relationship. We almost argue like my dad and I do sometimes. It is fun. I enjoy racing for Jack. He is awesome.”

DOES BRAD KESELOWSKI, IN HIS THIRD FULL TIME SEASON IN CUP, WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP GIVE YOU THE IDEA THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE? “Anything is possible. I just won two championships in a row in a Nationwide car and I am just a kid from Mississippi. Are you kidding me? Yeah, it does do that though. I look at him and I am 25 and three years down the road I will be 28 like he is. You look at the success on the Nationwide side that he and Paul Wolfe had and I feel like it is similar to the success Mike and I have had. I saw Brad struggle his first year in Cup trying to figure things out and I feel like he learned what he needed to learn. Then they brought Paul in and they started working together again and they had that relationship from the Nationwide side. It isn’t about having the best mechanics or tire guys it is about having a team that works well together. You have to have the best of everybody out there and have a team that believes in each other and sets a common goal of going out and doing it. I think that is what Brad and Paul did this year.”

ARE YOU OVER NOT WINNING THE RACE? “I was until you brought it up. (laughter) Thanks for reminding me that we didn’t get it done. Homestead is my favorite race track and you don’t come to your favorite race track to run sixth. You come to win, especially with it being Ford Championship Weekend. You don’t want to share the stage with anybody. Don’t get me wrong, I am kind of selfish, but that is what I was thinking.”

DID YOU REALLY HOLD DOWN YOUR MIC BUTTON SO THAT CALINOFF COULDN’T TALK TO YOU? “Yeah for 10-laps! With 13 or 14 laps to go he kept saying, ‘Quit racing and let him go.’ And I kept racing and he wouldn’t stop. I thought I could unplug my earphones but that wouldn’t send a message. If I hit the button though, they can hear the car for the last 10 laps (laughter).”

WILL HE BE WITH YOU NEXT YEAR WHEN YOU GO TO CUP? “Oh yeah, he will be there. What was funny was that I thought I would get in trouble from Jack but he agreed with me. He said, ‘I was getting irritated too.’ He said he would deal with Mike. I am sure Mike got a talking too by now. No, in all seriousness Mike has done a great job all year and with his experience I can see where he was coming from, but he has to know that I don’t give up spots. I really wanted a top five and we only got to sixth. At that point I knew we weren’t good enough to win but I wanted that 20th top-five of the season. I have gotten a lot of fans on Twitter that said they were glad I went and raced and didn’t just run around. I didn’t want the 2 closing in on me in points in the last race. I wanted to extend it if I could have.”

YOU ARE GOING TO BE BATTLING DANICA PATRICK FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN SPRINT CUP NEXT YEAR. WHAT WILL THAT BE LIKE? “That will be cool. Running for it on the Nationwide side was fun and I built a deficit when I was doing that and we came back to win. I think it will be good to have two of us going for it. It has been awhile since we had that. It will be fun going against Danica. I can’t help her too much in the Cup car though, I think she has more races than I’ve got. We both lean on the same people on the Cup side as far as Tony (Stewart) and some other guys. It will be fun though. It should be good. I am anxious to get it going. I think next year holds a lot in store as far as the new car and the fans and I think everyone is going to be excited about it. I am really looking forward to it.”

HAVE THE TWO OF YOU TRADED ANY WORDS ABOUT NEXT YEAR YET? “I haven’t thought much about it until today. Jack asked me if I was excited about next season after the Phoenix race and I told him not really because we have to finish this season first. I haven’t really thought much about next year but I am sure I will mess with her about it.”

WHAT CAN NASCAR DO TO ATTRACT YOUNG FANS? “I think they are doing it. A lot of the drivers are taking the social media to new levels. Brad (Keselowski) has been doing a great job at it and I think NASCAR is looking at more ways to bring that into play. Basically, it is giving the fan a different view of things than what they generally would get going to sit in the stands. I think they have been doing a great job at that and are definitely spending a lot of time and effort and money into making that better for them. That is the big thing, we just have to keep working hard at it and work together to keep attracting young fans.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE OFF-SEASON? “Nothing really. I like racing so when we aren’t in the car I don’t like it much. I will go back to Mississippi and hang out with friends and family. That is about all I will do. I can’t wait to get back to racing.”

** The opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the publisher. All comments other than website related problems need to be directed to the author. (c) **

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