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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finds going rough in Cup series

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

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.”

It’s not that Stenhouse didn’t 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 doesn’t have a top-10and is 21st in the Cup standings as he prepares for Saturday’s 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.

“It’s been up and down,” Stenhouse said of his season. “We’ve had some strong runs. We’ve had speed. We’ve made good decisions. We haven’t 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 it’s 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 we’ve been really consistent,” he said. “I haven’t put myself in many positions that are going to get us wrecked. I’m 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. “I’m going to do everything I can on the race track to help that, cut him some slack when we’re racing him.”

Another factor for Stenhouse is the rookie of the year, which he narrowly leads over his girlfriend, Danica Patrick.

“We don’t 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 don’t keep up with it. Away from the race track, we don’t really talk much about racing, period.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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