It can easily be stated that Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. represents the future of NASCAR. At the age of 25, Stenhouse is one of the crop of young guns that have begun to dominate the sport. His professionalism, talent, and drive to win are all well beyond his years, and only time will tell how much success this 2-time champion will enjoy.
Throughout his entire stock car career, he has driven for Roush Fenway racing. In his first season in ARCA in 2008, he had two wins in 21 races and finished fourth in the season ranking as a rookie. In 2009, he began his Nationwide stint, competing only in the events that conflicted with the Sprint Cup schedule. In 2010, he got off to a rough start, crashing out of four out of the first ten races of the season. Stenhouse was replaced by Brian Ickler for three races and Billy Johnson drove at Watkins Glen. After taking on veteran Mike Kelly as crew chief, Stenhouse immediately responded with a third place finish at Daytona. He proceeded to take seven top tens and was locked in a tight battle for Rookie of the Year (ROTY) with Brian Scott. With Scott struggling after his release from Turner Motorsports, Stenhouse took the ROTY award after a fourth place finish at Homestead.
2011 was a break out year for Stenhouse, winning the John Deere Dealers 250 at Iowa Speedway, his 51st start in the Nationwide Series. That win was the first of 2 in 2011, and with his consistent finishing average, he took the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series title. 2012 was another year of strong, consistant finishes, and he claimed his second consecutive championship.
On June 26, 2012, Roush Fenway Racing announced that Stenhouse will drive the No. 17 car in the Sprint Cup Series full-time for 2013, replacing Matt Kenseth. Trevor Bayne is expected to replace Stenhouse in the Nationwide No. 6 car for 2013, with the hopes of taking the NNS title for Roush Fenway for the third straight year.
On the day before Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. boarded a plane to Las Vegas to celebrate his NASCAR Nationwide championship one more time, the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner had the opportunity to ask him about his position in NASCAR history, his season, and his favorite motor oil, among other things.
1) How does it feel to be one of 6 men to have won the NNS championship two years in a row?
- “It’s an honor to be a part of that 6. If you look at it, you’ve got people who have been very successful, and have won a lot of races, and to be part of it, I think it’s cool. Anytime you go and win a championship back to back is a lot of hard work. On both the team side and the driving side, everyone has to work together. It’s a huge honor not only for myself but for the team as well.”
2) What are the highlights of 2012? What would you have done differently?
- “Well, there’s a lot of highlights, and also a lot of stuff I would have done differently. I would say some of the highlights were battling from the back of the field at Las Vegas, as well as the race in Atlanta when we raced hard against Kevin Harvick. I would say those are the top two moments of this year. Looking back, I would say I would like to take a few things back driving wise. I think it would be safe to say that Dover, as well as some other races throughout the season that I feel we should have finished better, and ended up with more points that would have helped in the championship run later in the season. When you look back over the whole year, there’s always a laundry list of stuff you would have changed, whether you win or not.”
3) What are your goals for 2013 in the No. 17 car?
- “You’ve got to set your goals realistically, but you have to set them high. We want to get off to a good start in the first few races, put ourselves in a good position, and start running consistently, aiming for the top 15 in the beginning of the year. I think if we work on that, get it going as much as we can, build throughout the season getting better and better, and by the end of the year be running in the top 10, or hopefully top 5. I think if you’re running top 5, you have a chance at a win. So, that’s our goal.”
4) Since you are starting full time in Sprint Cup in 2013, do you think you will still compete in NNS?
- “I would like to. We don’t have any plans of that as of now, but I would definitely like to.”
5) You have stated that Jeff Gordon was your favorite driver growing up. Do the recent events in Phoenix change your opinion of him?
- “No they don’t. He was definitely one of my favorite drivers growing up; he’s a great racecar driver. I try not to get into everyone else’s situations. I think that the situation there had been building up for more than just one race, and Jeff and Clint have had issues. I’ve been in the same sort of situation, and I understand how heated things can get sometimes. He’s still a great champion, a great racecar driver, and my opinion about him definitely hasn’t changed.”
6) We spoke to your race partners at Valvoline who are ecstatic about how the NextGen motor oil is performing at track. RFR decided to make a full switch to NextGen at the beginning of the season. How do you feel about that decision so far?
- “I think it’s great. Anytime you can take oil that’s been refined, clean it and reuse it again, I think it’s in a better state to start with. We haven’t had any issues this year with it, when we’ve ran it in the car. Obviously, environmentally it’s a lot better. If you can reuse oil it saves a lot that would go to waste. Valvoline has done a great job in advertising with it. A lot of fans have caught on to the hype about it, and believe in it, and I think it’s a good situation.”
The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner would like to thank Alexandra Bocci, Andrea Parker, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and the entire Roush Fenway organization for helping to make this interview possible. In the next few weeks, this column hopes to feature interviews with other NASCAR superstars, such as Trevor Bayne and Greg Biffle. Stay tuned!
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. not only has a growing fan base, but he is also becoming fodder for the tabloids! According to a report in the November 28 edition of the National Enquirer, Stenhouse may be involved in a relationship with the most famous woman in motorsports, Danica Patrick.
“While there’s no proof of a physical relationship, bloggers on racing sites are buzzing about the sparks flying between Danica and Ricky,” a source told the National Enquirer.
“More than a few people are pointing out she’s ending a seven-year marriage just as she’s gotten closer and closer to Ricky. She’s also much closer in age to him than her husband, who is 17 years older than Danica,” the source continued.
“Danica has spent more time with Ricky the past couple of years than with her husband,” the Enquirer reported. “When he won the Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year in 2010, she was one of the first to congratulate him and gave him a big hug. It’s no secret Danica is infatuated with him.”
Though the source of the article may be suspect, the Enquirer has often bragged about having the best investigative reporters in journalism! No matter whether the story is true or not, it has been said that any publicity is good publicity, and if the article in the Enquirer helps to increase ratings, fill up grandstands, and sell t-shirts, then all the better.
Of course, you could always just call up Danica Patrick and ask her for the real truth. Thanks to a recent ad campaign by Nationwide Insurance, the whole world knows her cell phone number. Just in case you didn’t take the time to jot it down, it’s (480) 388-0988!
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