Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finds going rough in Cup series
Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013
BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 16: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Ford, climbs from his car after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 16: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 18: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Ford, pits after sliding into his pit stall during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 18, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick talk during qualifications for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 04: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Zest Ford, drives down pit road following an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Nothing comes easily on the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
Ask rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
You have to be so perfect in the Cup series, said Stenhouse. Every driver out there can go win a race if they have the right car and have a fast pit crew. These guys are just really good.
Its not that Stenhouse didnt know what he was getting into. While winning Nationwide Series titles in 2011 and 12, Stenhouse also made five Cup starts before coming to the top series fulltime this year.
Once there, though, ithas been a struggle. Stenhouse doesnt have a top-10and is 21st in the Cup standings as he prepares for Saturdays Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. His most recent outing at Michigan resulted in a 19th-place finish.
His best performance probably was at Kansas, where he finished 11th and led 26 laps.
Its been up and down, Stenhouse said of his season. Weve had some strong runs. Weve had speed. Weve made good decisions. We havent gotten everything to fall our way to capitalize. In these Sprint Cup races, you have to have everything fall in place. I knew it was going to be tough coming in.
If there is a positive to take from this season, Stenhouse said its that hehas managed to finish all 23 races. He blew a tire at Michigan but still finished on the lead lap. He wrecked at Pocono (Pa.) and also blew a tire at Texas, but hewas there at the end at both races.
I think weve been really consistent, he said. I havent put myself in many positions that are going to get us wrecked. Im not taking too many chances at pressing the issue and tearing our car up. That was something that took me a while to learn. It took me forever in the Nationwide car to figure that out.
Stenhouse said one of the most important things he can do as the 26-race regular season winds down is to help Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle get into the 12-driver Chase (Biffle is 10th in the standings but just four points aheadof 11th).
We need to make sure he gets a spot in the Chase, said Stenhouse. Im going to do everything I can on the race track to help that, cut him some slack when were racing him.
Another factor for Stenhouse is the rookie of the year, which he narrowly leads over his girlfriend, Danica Patrick.
We dont really talk about it too much, said Stenhouse, who has a 203-192 edge. We talk about how our races went, how our cars handled, things like that. We dont keep up with it. Away from the race track, we dont really talk much about racing, period.