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Jun 27, 2014 - 01:51 PM
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2014 Kentucky Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Posted by: ASkyler on Jun 27, 2014 - 01:49 PM
2014 Kentucky Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Ricky Stenhouse Jr

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion, has one top-five and three top-10 finishes as he heads into tomorrow’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Stenhouse visited the infield media center Friday morning to discuss this weekend’s race and other topics.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. - No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion - "It’s always fun coming to Kentucky. It’s not too far from home, so friends and family have come up. It’s our first race with Fifth Third on the car this year, so we’re excited about that. They’re great people to work and partner with and they’re excited. They bring a lot of people out here, so we’re definitely looking for a good run. We’ve been struggling as of late and hopefully I can be in here after the race is over. That would be a good idea for us, but we’ve had some struggles, but we’ve had some good runs as well, so I think we’ve done a lot of work to our car this past couple of weeks. Being off the oval last week we worked really hard on this car and I’m excited to get it on the race track and see what Mike Kelley and the guys put underneath this thing that hopefully will make it fast for us."


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ARE YOU STRUGGLING AS A DRIVER OR IS THE TEAM STRUGGLING WITH PUTTING TOGETHER CARS THAT ARE COMPETITIVE? "I think we’re missing a lot of things. The problem is that it’s not just one thing that’s we’ve missed it on, but everybody at the shop is working really hard. We’ve changed a lot. Jack has put a lot of money into testing. We’ve gone and tested a lot. We’ve still got some more tests planned. I think we’ve missed it as a team, as a 17 team at race tracks. I’ve missed it as a driver when we’ve had decent cars. At Michigan I thought we had a pretty fast car and I got in the wall early, so I think that kind of ruined a chance there. Last week we had a pretty fast car at Sonoma, which last year I was 37th the whole race, and we were inside the top 10 at times, so I think at times we’ve got the right pieces and we’ve just got to put them all in our race car and make sure we don’t make mistakes. But Jack is definitely working really hard at making sure that the pieces that we’re bringing to the race track are better than they have been. We thought we had it back earlier in the season when we had a really good car that turned right off the truck at Bristol. We all had really good runs, so we’re looking to bring fast race cars to the race track, but everybody from Doug Yates to our body shop to our chassis shop, everybody is working really hard and they have their heads down digging as hard as they can."

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE TO A FAN HOW BUMPY THIS TRACK IS AT KENTUCKY? "I was in Michigan not too long ago and it’s kind of like running on the roads in Michigan. There are a lot of potholes up there, so it’s pretty rough. I think I remember seeing video of Ryan Newman having to adjust his helmet back when I was in the Nationwide Series. I was watching one of the Cup races and I remember this race track being like that for a while, so it’s kind of pothole after pothole. It doesn’t get that same effect, but it definitely upsets the car and moves it around, but I think if you asked any of us drivers, we enjoy it, especially coming off of places like Michigan - the race track - and Pocono, where it’s new pavement. We definitely prefer the surface here at Kentucky, but it’s really rough. Down the front straightaways is probably one of the roughest places - three and four. One and two is not too bad and I think that’s why we see the groove pretty wide down there. We kind of run all over the place. The bumps on the bottom of three and four are pretty bad."

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. CONTINUED -- DO YOU APPRECIATE THE NEW FORMAT WITH WINS BEING EMPHASIZED THIS YEAR, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING? "Yeah, that would definitely help us out this year. I think we’ve got some race tracks that we can definitely do that at. Obviously, after our runs earlier this year we’ve got Daytona and Bristol circled. Hopefully, after practice we’ll have this one circled, too. If you win it kind of changes your whole season and that goes for anybody. I think at the beginning of the season we had some consistent, decent runs, and I thought we were gonna be able to keep ourselves up in the points that we’d also be able to maybe sneak in - being up in the points - but that’s out the window now and we’ve just got to win a race. So I think we could really benefit from that this year if we take advantage of it."

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN TO THE FANS THAT YOU LIKE A BUMPY RACE TRACK? "We just tell them that. I think it’s tougher to get a handle on it, so therefore hopefully just the all-out speed in one race car is not the car that goes up there and leads most of the laps. You’ve still got to handle really well, so taking all the drag out of it and kind of getting it slick like you would at Michigan - taking downforce away and taking drag out of it - I think you’ve got to have a really good mechanical balance. You’ve got to have some downforce to keep the car settled down and I think that’s why we like it because if you don’t, the cars are just in one line and fairly easy to drive, but here at Kentucky I don’t think I’ve been in a race car that’s easy to drive here at Kentucky. It’s another challenge that we enjoy."

YOUR TOP SEVEN TRACKS ARE ALL 1.5-MILE TRACKS. IS THERE JUST A CERTAIN COMFORT LEVEL YOU HAVE AT PLACES LIKE THAT WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY TRANSLATE INTO YOUR FINISHES? "Yeah, I think so. I think looking at Jack’s history on the mile-and-a-halves it’s pretty strong, but I really enjoy the mile-and-a-halves. We did really well with them in the Nationwide Series and the speed that they have is a lot of fun, and I enjoy that. Normally at these mile-and-a-halves there are so many lanes that you can pick from, so I enjoy racing on them. Qualifying, I think we haven’t exactly nailed down the new qualifying format. I think if it would have been the old format our starting positions would have been further up this year, but we seem to get one good run in and then either miss the adjustments or I go overdrive the tires after I got all the good out of them. The mile-and-a-halves are just a lot of fun and carrying a lot of speed. It’s all about keeping your momentum up, so I really enjoy them."

IS A ROUGH TRACK SURFACE A NEGATIVE WHEN IT COMES TO QUALIFYING AND TRYING TO GET IN THE TOP 12? "It’s gonna be tough because when the tires do give up, when you hit the bumps it slides more. The front slides and the rear will slide, so the car that I feel like is gonna be on the pole will probably be making quite a few adjustments in between each run throughout the qualifying process. We’re really gonna have to keep up with it and not overdrive it at times and just make sure you hit that right adjustment because I think here more than any it’s gonna be tough to keep those front tires glued to the race track with hitting the bumps."

IS IT MORE DEMANDING PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY TO KNOW THE NUANCES OF THIS TRACK? "It’s a little bit of both. Obviously any race track that’s got bumps in it and you’re having to really drive the car a lot different than a Michigan, it definitely takes a little bit of toll on you. But I think, for the most part, on the mental side it’s remembering where all these bumps are and making sure you hit the line you want to run each lap. Like I said, three and four is pretty rough and it’s tough to just look at the race track and see the bumps. I think some of our crew guys will go out and look at a race track and they’re like, ‘I don’t see these bumps you’re talking about,’ but looking at the data and stuff they can see them. So it’s remembering where those are every lap and making sure you put your car in the right spots, so it’s tough to do sometimes."

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