RICKY STENHOUSE JR. PRESS CONFERENCE
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. - #17 Fastenal Ford Fusion - HOW DO YOU SEE THINGS? "I don't really know position-wise exactly where we'll be, but I think we've got a plan of what we need to do to get through the first round and then after that I think your plan might change race to race, and even in the first round it could change race to race. I think it depends on what happens to the cars around you and if you can capitalize on some of those mistakes. If they have mistakes, then that's what you've got to do."
DO YOU RACE SEGMENTS OR RACES? "Both. You've got to have points. I think if you look at what it would have taken to make it in on points this year, it was 100 or so more than it did last year, and you had to average an eighth-place finish just about to make it in on points. I think you're gonna have to get stage points, you're gonna have to get good finishing points if you want to succeed and move forward."
DON'T YOU THINK IF YOU GET THROUGH THE FIRST ROUND WITH TALLADEGA IN THE SECOND ROUND THAT YOU WOULD FEEL CONFIDENT GETTING TO ROUND THREE? "You never feel that confident going to a speedway race (laughing). It was awesome watching Brad win Talladega when he had to a couple years ago, but I would think for us as a team, making it through the first round and giving ourselves an opportunity to get to the third round would be a success. I would definitely have confidence going in, but I wouldn't say I'd just feel like it's a lock. It's so unknown when you go there, but I would feel really happy about that."
YOU FEEL BETTER NOW THOUGH THAN PERHAPS YOU HAD WINS AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS. "Yes and no. There is a certain level of confidence. Now that we've always had good finishes at speedways and our average finish at Talladega is around 10th in all the races I've ran there, but I wasn't ever sure like are we ever gonna win a speedway race? Like we always get good finishes, but are we gonna win one? So once we finally won Talladega, I think it gave me a little bit more confidence. 'Hey, when it gets down to the end of the race I know what I need to do, my spotter knows what he needs to do to get the job done.'"
DO THE GUYS WITH A LOT OF EXPERIENCE HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OVER YOU FIRST-TIME PLAYOFF GUYS? "Come Playoffs I don't think the experience really has much to do with it. I think whether your team and your car and your package is better or not, I think that's where the advantage comes in. So I think we've made our cars better than where we were in the middle of the summer, so I'm looking forward to getting that on the track at Chicago and seeing how we stack up come that first practice, and kind of evaluate from there, but I don't think really the experience has a ton to do with it. I think us drivers young, not experienced or experienced really just go out and race as hard as we can."
IS THERE AN UNDERDOG VIBE WITH YOU? "I feel like as long as Chase and Ryan and Austin and Kyle and those guys are running, where I think I'll always be an underdog, which is fine with me. I don't really care. I think, for us, I think we're all really happy to get our first wins in the same year. I think we've had a lot of fun with that and we're looking forward to hopefully making many more wins as it comes."
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT DANICA'S FUTURE? "I can't tell you anything about her future. I didn't even know that was coming out this week, by the way. I know that she enjoys racing. She loves the competitiveness of it and has been doing it for a long time, so I think if it was up to her she would try getting in a competitive car and keep going out and competing, but I can't speak for her."
DO YOU THINK DANICA WOULD BE HAPPY JUST WORKING ON THE OTHER THINGS SHE HAS GOING? "She is very passionate about all her other businesses that she has going. It definitely makes her really happy doing that, so if she didn't have all those other things going on that she enjoyed, I think I would be a little concerned because nobody wants to just quit racing, but I do think she's in a great place as far as outside of the race car and what she has going on with the winery, the clothing line, the workout book. If I didn't end up racing the following year, I would want to have a lot of things going on like that, so she's definitely full-time. I'd say she's a lot busier than all of the other drivers in our sport traveling around and doing things, so she knows that some of it is brought upon her being a female in NASCAR and doing a lot on that side of things, but then she also knows she has chosen to do a lot of things as well with her other businesses."
WHAT KIND OF FULL-TIME RACING GIRLFRIEND WOULD SHE MAKE? "I think good. I'd probably get a lot of critique going on, but it will be interesting to see. I would like to see her continue racing. I know she would like to continue racing if they found the right opportunity."
FROM HER POINT OF VIEW IT'S FULL-TIME RACING OR NONE? WOULD SHE WANT TO DO SPECIFIC EVENTS ONLY? "I don't know. I know when she first came to NASCAR she wanted to do the double. I don't know if she'd ever really have any desire to go back and run Indy. I know it's one race she's always been very passionate about and always thinks every time she shows up she has a good opportunity to win, so I know that her racing side and competitiveness side would say, 'Hey, I want to go back and run that,' but I don't really know exactly if she wants to or not."
DO YOU THINK SHE WOULD BE COMFORTABLE DRIVING FOR A MID-LEVEL NASCAR TEAM? "I think it's gonna have to be the right situation. Like I said, I don't talk to her agent or really talk to her a whole lot about it. I let them kind of figure it out and whatever they decide they decide."
WHAT DO YOU TALK ABOUT? "We've got plenty of other stuff to talk about, but I think it's got to be the right situation."
WHAT DO YOU THINK HER LEGACY WILL BE? "I think her legacy is already established and really well across all of motorsports, not just in NASCAR, but open-wheel as well. This is something that racing is something she's pursued since she was 10 years old, moving to England when she was 16. That's kind of crazy to think about somebody moving to England when they're 16 to race, and I think the things that she's been able to accomplish and do has been, I would say, the best female driver of all-time, but that's my opinion and everyone has their own opinion, but I'd drive a car at Atlanta and I've seen her run up through the field at Atlanta and finish fourth or fifth at one of our tougher race tracks. I feel like she can drive anything."
WHAT ARE PEOPLE MISSING ABOUT DANICA? "I think that they miss, I think not being in these cars, for me, you can argue that went out and ran really well in the XFINITY Series and then came to Cup and really struggled. I think if you look at our stats of our first few years, they didn't really look that much different for all the success I had in the XFINITY car and winning races and championships, so it's just tough to make sure that you have the right people behind you, the right people on your team that believe in everything that you can do. I think she's put a lot of work in and I think she can drive a car when it's the right car, so it's no different than Richmond. She passed some really good race cars throughout that race and it's all just about getting everything right. She drives different than Kevin and Clint and Kurt. I thought her best opportunity was when her and Tony Gibson all of a sudden at the end of the year started running really well, and now it all got switched and I think she's been trying to make up ground ever since. I thought they were headed in the right direction and that was a bummer. I know that I would have liked to have seen that play out a little different."
HOW HAS YOUR EQUIPMENT CHANGED THROUGHOUT THE YEAR? "There's a ton of work for us to do. Like I was telling somebody, I want to be able to feel confident about winning races at every race track we go to. And that's been a goal of ours since we tried to start rebuilding this place. I feel like we have a great atmosphere and a lot of people have been interested in coming to work. I feel like we're gonna hire some new people over the off season that could help pit stop-wise and mechanic-wise and aero departments and engineering departments, so I think we've kind of changed the culture that this is where people would want to come work and they're seeing the results of the hard work we're putting in. After we've got our wins I feel like we've not been as strong, but I would say if you look at our summer stretch throughout my career it's not been that strong. I really like the races we have coming up and the race tracks and we've put a lot of effort in to our Chicago cars and Loudon and Dover, so we've kind of been looking forward to that and making sure that we have all the right pieces in the right places on our car coming to Chicago this weekend."
WHO IS THE NEXT DRIVER TO WIN MULTIPLE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE CUP SERIES? "Man, that's tough. Multiple championships. If I look really right now I would say Kevin or Kyle would be that guy. Like I said, they've already got one championship and I feel like they're in position that they could put themselves in that second championship category this year. I think Truex has got the speed to do that over the next few years, if they can stay at that level and, really, I think Larson is capable of that as well if they're able to stay at the level they're at right now, or push that level up a little higher. I think with Kyle and Kevin already having one, I think you've got to put those at the top of your list."
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