Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 with a 22 point cushion over Elliott Sadler for the NASCAR Nationwide points title. Stenhouse spoke to media members at Kansas Speedway prior to the first NNS practice of the weekend.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS HERE AND MAYBE WHAT THIS TRACK MEANS TO YOU? “I didn’t know that this is where we took over the points lead. That is cool. I like Kansas. We finished second in the ARCA race here and this was my first mile-and-a-half race track to race on in the ARCA series so that was a good deal to get here and get one out of the way. We ran really strong here in the Nationwide race last year. We ran in the top-five and had a penalty and had to restart in the back. We worked our way back toward the front and restarted top-five on the last restart and ended up falling to sixth. This has been a good track for us. We did the tire test here so we have high expectations. It isn’t my favorite tire to bring here. It isn’t the one I wanted to bring here but it is the one that didn’t wear out. I corded the other ones that we were going to want to run here. You have to drive this one a little bit easier, which doesn’t play into my favor but hopefully I can figure it out pretty soon.”
PROBABLY THE MOST BIZARRE STORY THIS WEEK WAS REED SORENSON BEING BOUNCED OUT OF HIS RIDE. DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT? “That was definitely a shock. When I first heard about it I thought it was maybe for next season. They I found out it was for this weekend. I feel like that is a big shock, especially being third in points. He won two Dash for Cash races and won the race at Road America and has ran really strong. I thought it was a shock but I guess really you don’t know everything that is going on over there within their organization. There are a lot of things that could add up to their decision but definitely a shock to me for sure.”
LAST YEAR JACK PULLED YOU ASIDE AND TOOK YOU OUT OF THE CAR AFTER YOUR SERIES OF CRASHES AND TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE HIS GUY. LOOK WHERE THAT HAS LED TO NOW. “Yeah, it is tough when you get pulled out of a race car. From what it sounds like it is a different situation for Reed. When I got pulled out of the car it was a big shock when I got that news. You just have to keep plugging away and keep your head down and keep digging and do as much as you can to get either back in another race car or do whatever you need to do to keep your career going. It is going to be a pretty tough road for Reed and I am sure he was shocked more than anybody by it. He hasn’t had a bad season at all, so I think that is what is the biggest shock. When I got pulled out of the race car it wasn’t a huge shock to anybody. With his season the way it has gone I feel like it is a big shock for sure.”
IS YOUR REACTION TO THE NEWS SORT OF MIXED? IT ISN’T GOOD FOR THE SERIES BUT IT COULD BE GOOD FOR YOU IF HE DOESN’T HAVE A RIDE. “You know, you don’t ever want to see anybody without a ride. You wouldn’t want to wish that on anybody. You don’t want to end up without a ride yourself. Right now I think the Elliott is our biggest title contender and we are battling it out pretty good right now but with Reed only 49 point back, I think in four races I was 31 back and went to the lead so anything can happen with five races left. Reed was very much in it for sure. It is good to see that he has a ride this weekend and hopefully keep some of those points that he would have lost not being here. It is tough when you have to start bouncing around to different teams. He was with a solid team there at Turner Motorsports and felt like he had a good shot. He was running consistent every week and I think that was going to keep him in it if we had a bad weekend and Elliott had a bad weekend. It is probably up to me and Elliott right now.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO KNOW THAT YOU HAVING A RIDE HAS JUST AS MUCH TO DO WITH HOW YOU REPRESENT A COMPANY AND DEAL WITH SPONSORS AS IT DOES HOW YOU PERFORM ON THE TRACK? “It is a difficult situation. Coming from Sprint Cars you just raced. I raced for my dad and you race as hard as you could. Now coming over here to Roush Fenway you have companies you have to represent. We have Blackwell Angus Beef and Cargill and they are a huge privately owned company. You have to give them the right image on and off the race track and perform for them. The one good thing about being at Roush Fenway is that Jack does go a lot off of performance. I think that is a lucky situation that I am in right now. Jack believes in great race car drivers and figuring out sponsorship for them. Whatever he has to do he will do it. Obviously we have ran our cars unsponsored this year. I feel like I am in a different situation than a lot of people and that is just having a great car owner.”
I KNOW YOU GET HIT WITH A LOT OF DANICA QUESTIONS. AS POINTS LEADER, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HER PROGRESSION THROUGH THIS SERIES AND HOW SHE HAS IMPROVED? “I think she has improved a lot. Obviously going to race tracks and in these stock cars for the first time is difficult. She ran really well at Daytona and the mile-and-a-half’s. I think she will run really good here. I don’t think she has been here in a stock car. It takes getting used to but I think the short tracks are going to be her biggest challenge. She has what it takes to do it and I think she has gotten better and better every week. You watch her unload at Richmond to where she was in the race she ran a lot faster, better and more consistent. I think next year, once she starts racing every weekend, I think you will see a big progression from the beginning to the end of the season. It took me awhile to get going and I think that she should have a lot of time to get adjusted to it too.”