CHEVY NCS AT BRISTOL 1: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Press Conf. Transcript

NASCAR CUP SERIES
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
SUPERMARKET HEROES 500
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 29, 2020

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., NO. 47 KROGER CAMARO ZL1 1LE, spoke with media via teleconference to discuss his fourth-place finish in the Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, looking towards the next race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and more. Full Transcript:

IT WAS A FUN RUN THAT YOU HAD LAST NIGHT. WALK US THROUGH THE EXPERIENCE AND THE NIGHT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE.
“Yeah, for us, it was just really good to just have a smooth race with really no issues. Obviously, the first race back at Darlington, I kind of ruined our day early. Then, the second Darlington, we had some issues that we couldn’t fix while we were in the race. Charlotte, the Coca-Cola 600, the first run, we ran up to tenth. I felt really good about it. After we came to the pits, we had some issues again that we had to get over and just didn’t really have the speed after that first run. We felt like what we had in the car was really good and I liked the way it drove at the beginning of the 600. So, we just kind of worked on that and made sure that we limited all of our mistakes and got all of our issues figured out. Brian (Pattie, Crew Chief) and the boys did an awesome job with that. From the drop of the green flag, I felt really good about how our Kroger Camaro ran. For us, it was just huge to get a good run in and pass a lot of really good cars. We ran decent at Vegas and got a good finish on pit strategy. But last night, it was just nice to be able to run up front, pass a lot of really good cars and actually catch the leaders there at a few points towards the end of the race. All-in-all, a great night for us and really looking forward to hopefully carrying that momentum, show what we are capable of and be able to do that more and more often.”


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WITH THE WAY THAT THIS SEASON HAS GONE, FOUR RACES WITH YOUR NEW TEAM, A TEN-WEEK BREAK, THEN BACK, I’M WONDERING IF IT’S MAKING IT DIFFICULT FOR A NEW TEAM TO FIND A RHYTHM?
“Yes and no. We semi had a rhythm going to start the year. I felt like we still had some things to kind of work through. But you sit around for a long time and you’re trying to think of new ways to make your car faster. Then, I go out and make a huge mistake and we didn’t learn anything at Darlington, so that was a rough way to kick it back off. Some of those things that we were working on, if we would have had practice, we definitely would have found some of those issues that we had at the second race at Darlington and the first race at Charlotte. But now, I think we have it under control. We’ve figured out what issues we had and I feel really good about where we are after the way yesterday went. No issues, still things to work on. I don’t really feel like the new team coming back is hard to get in that rhythm, it was just I made a huge mistake that kind of got us off because we could have learned a lot I felt like in that first Darlington. It kind of put us a race behind, so we could have maybe figured out our issues a race earlier and had two good Charlotte races.”

YOU’VE HAD SUCCESS AT BRISTOL BEFORE. HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SUNDAY AND WHAT YOU THINK YOU GUYS CAN DO THERE?
“I feel really good. I know (Chris) Buescher when he was here, they had some really good runs at Bristol. Our setups, looking at what we normally run versus what they ran here, are pretty similar. So, I feel good about that. The feel that I have in this race car I feel like is better than really any of the feel that I had in my Cup cars over my career so far. I felt like last night was a car that kind of reminded me of when I raced the Xfinity Series on the 1.5-mile tracks – I could kind of put my car where I wanted to and it did a lot of the things that I was asking it to do. So, I’m looking forward to getting that to Bristol knowing that we’ve had good runs there. We’ve had chances to win there. It would be nice to be able to get up and go lead some laps, and contend for a win there as well.”

YOU GET YOUR FAIR SHARE OF CRITICISM FROM PEOPLE WHEN YOU DO MAKE A MISTAKE, LIKE AT DARLINGTON, AND SOCIAL MEDIA IMMEDIATELY JUMPS ON IT. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE LOWS OUT WITH SOMETHING LIKE LAST NIGHT?
“Yes and no. The frustrating part is that I just need to get more consistent, not make those mistakes and not give people reasons to run their mouth. But it’s all part of it, that’s the things you have to take with the sport. Anytime you have a lot of fans watching and definitely fans of different teams, you’ll have people run their mouth. But you just have to stick to what you know, stick to your team, know that you bring your friends with you to the race track, and know they’re the ones around you supporting you. Honestly, I think that’s one thing that I get out of working out so hard – it doesn’t just physically prepare you for the race, but mentally just keeps you focused on what you need to focus on. I know for me, I definitely need to get more consistent. I look back at my years in the Xfinity Series, it didn’t start off great, but when our cars were right, I felt like I was able to do a lot with them, be more consistent, contend for wins, win and run up front. If we keep having cars like we had last night, I feel like I can make less mistakes, but also be aggressive and still get a lot out of the race car, and try and keep those haters off the internet as much as possible.”

ONE OF THE DRIVERS SAID TO US THIS MORNING THAT THE FIRST LAP AT BRISTOL CAN BE NERVE-RACKING FOR ANY DRIVER, EVEN IF YOU HAD YOUR CAR DIALED IN. DO YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY, CONSIDERING WHAT THIS MAY BE LIKE WITH NO PRACTICE, NO QUALIFYING?
“Practices at Bristol, kind of that first run, you get out of breath, you almost have to remind yourself to breathe. But we’re all going to be doing that at the same time now. I think for us, the biggest unknown is normally we’re able to run the top of the race track in during practice. You kind of get two grooves going, people aren’t too scared to venture high early in the race. But now, with no practice, you’re not going to have those runs up there to lay the rubber. It’ll be nerve-racking, for sure. I think everybody is going to kind of take it a little bit easy, probably not going to do what I did at Darlington on the first lap. Just kind of let the race play out. Everybody is going to be hoping they get a good draw. That’s another reason why the race last night was important for us. After the last three, we slipped in points quite a bit and we were kind of in that third group of drawing for positions. Now, we put ourselves in that second group. Hopefully, we can draw towards the front of that and get a good starting position so we don’t feel like we need to be in a hurry. The leaders come fast at Bristol and that’s always a nerve-racking thing as well.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ALL THE COVID-19 PROTOCOLS THAT NASCAR HAS PUT IN PLACE HAS GONE?
“Yeah, it’s definitely smooth. I think any updates that they’ve had, they’ve sent it to us and everything has gone really smooth as far as on the driver side. I haven’t heard any complaints from the crew guys or really anybody. I feel like everybody has been doing a good job and just accepted it. It might not be comfortable wearing a mask, but it’s part of what we have to do. It’s cool that our sport is back up and running, and being able to get our season back going. I know there are a lot of other sports that wish they could be doing the same thing. NASCAR has done a great job of working with the government and the states to make sure we are capable of going racing at the race tracks that we need to race at.”

YOU’RE AN AGGRESSIVE DRIVER, IT’S WHAT YOU DO. WHERE IS THE LINE AT BRISTOL BETWEEN FINESSE AND AGGRESSION IN YOUR MIND?
“I think you just have to feel out your race car and feel out the race track. You’ll have the bottom lane, the top lane, the middle – it’s just a race track you just have to get a feel for where you want your car to work, knowing that top lane will eventually come in and be the fast way around. But knowing that you might have to run the bottom on restarts and through traffic. So, really it’s just going to be feeling your car out until that competition caution that we generally have with no practice and just make sure that you give your crew chief as much information as you can to make sure when that pit stop comes that we can make the right adjustments to be good after that.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THE FIELD WILL BE PULLING OFF AT BRISTOL? TOTALLY DIFFERENT TRACK THAN DARLINGTON OR CHARLOTTE.
“No, I think it will be about the same. Probably the weirdest thing I feel like at Bristol would be no fans because the grandstands are so close to the race track. That will be a different feeling kind of walking down into the stadium with nobody yelling at you or cheering for you, so that’ll be different. But all-in-all, I think everybody is going to be in kind of the same mindset and just trying to feel everything out.”

ALL THESE RACES IN A CONDENSED SCHEDULE, IT’S BEEN PRETTY WELL RECEIVED IT SEEMS LIKE AMONG THE YOUNGER DRIVERS. YOU AS A DRIVER WHO HAS BEEN AT THIS FOR A FEW MORE YEARS THAN SOME OF THE YOUNGER DRIVERS, DO YOU LIKE IT?
“Obviously, since we’ve been back going, it was nice to be able to jump back into the race car at Darlington on Wednesday after our issues on Sunday. We had issues at Darlington with our race car on Wednesday, so it was nice to get back in on Sunday. I enjoy it as far as that goes, but to me, I just like to race. I like to be in the race car. Practice and qualifying doesn’t do it for me as much as getting out and competing in the race, as far as we’d be in the car on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But really there’s nothing like going out and racing. I enjoy racing as much as possible. I like the Sunday – Wednesday schedules; I wish would could kind of keep doing that. I’ve never been a fan of shortening the season because I just like to race. I’m going to try and sprinkle some more dirt races in when I can, if NASCAR lets me (laughs). For me, I enjoy the racing aspect of it. I love being in the race car as much as possible. Like probably the other crew chiefs said, the guys at the shop definitely have a lot more work, as far as getting cars ready week in and week out. So, that’s always been probably the biggest question mark of running these mid-week races to catch up our schedule is the toll that it’s taking on the crew guys. But it’s all been well received, they enjoy it and they love us back racing.”

I KNOW THAT YOU AND KYLE LARSON ARE PRETTY CLOSE. HAVE YOU BEEN TALKING TO HIM AT ALL AS THE SEASON IS RESUMING AND HOW HE’S DOING?
“Yeah, he’s obviously got a big adjustment and it’s totally different than what was his schedule and life before everything went down. He’s glad to be racing, definitely misses being in the Cup car and competing at this level. He’s just been hanging out with his family and going dirt racing. It’s a big adjustment, but he seems to be doing alright.”

COMING OUT OF THE PANDEMIC, WAS THERE ANY POINT WHERE YOU FELT LIKE WE REALLY NEED TO HAVE A STRONG RUN IN THIS MID-WEEK RACE AT CHARLOTTE OR DID YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA PRESSURE ON YOURSELF TO DELIVER THAT, KNOWING HOW YOU HAD SLIPPED IN THE POINTS?
“Yeah, it’s was very important. Like I said, the first Darlington obviously was kind of written off. The second Darlington, we learned a lot. Didn’t have the run that we wanted, but knew that there were some big issues that we needed to fix. Coming into Charlotte for the 600, we felt like we fixed all those issues and we kind of had some different issues come up that we weren’t expecting. So, I felt like we learned a lot those two races that we could get everything smoothed out and ready for that mid-week race at Charlotte. Knowing that it was a short race, you had to be on your game from the start and we were. I told the boys that we needed a good run going into Bristol, my favorite race track, knowing that I really like the way these cars drive. And if it drives as good at Bristol as it has at these other race tracks, I feel like we’re going to have a shot at a win. I wanted a good solid top-15 run, no issues, no mistakes and it turned out to be way better than that. So, we’re looking forward to hopefully carrying that momentum into Sunday.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT RUN, FINISHING IN THE TOP-FIVE AND THE SPEED YOU HAD, IS THAT THE POTENTIAL YOU SAW WHEN YOU JUMPED OVER TO JTG DAUGHERTY FOR THIS YEAR?
“Yeah, definitely. Looking at the equipment that they have here, the people, the parts and pieces, the Hendrick power, the new Chevy Camaro body – I feel like those are all really good things to put together. Bringing my crew chief Brian Pattie over, bringing Mike Kelley over, with a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience to work in, they jumped right it. I felt like they’ve been working with these guys for a long time and it’s only been a short amount of time. So, I feel like we are definitely capable of running in the top-ten. I feel like last night was definitely a night that we hit it right. We had a really good car and I hope we can continue to run top-five and contend for wins. But I definitely feel like we can run top-ten with everything that we have right here. We have to do that – we have to limit my mistakes, limit the issues that we’ve had and just have good, smooth, solid nights, and I think we can run top-ten.”

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