Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang , comes into this weekend nine points behind Elliott Sadler for first-place in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Stenhouse participated in a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway to talk about the championship race and his hopes for making it two straight.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AT THIS POINT AS YOU GO FOR TWO STRAIGHT TITLES? “It’s gonna be tough, we know that for sure. This whole year has been tough. It’s been really tight. We win races. They win races. We’re right behind them. He’s right behind us, so it’s a lot of fun. This year has been really exciting, not only for me but my whole team. I think they’ve really enjoyed it. It seems like the fans have really enjoyed the battle that we have going on and I feel confident about our equipment, our race team and the race tracks we have left, but if I look over at their stats (Sadler’s team) at those race tracks and the race tracks that we have left, they’re just as good as ours. I don’t think either one of us has a clear advantage over the other. I think it’s just gonna be hard-racing to the end and try not to make mistakes.”
TO WHAT EXTENT HAS IT HELPED NATIONWIDE DRIVERS WITH THE CUP GUYS NOT BEING ABLE TO SCORE POINTS WHEN THEY RUN EVENTS? “Competition on the race track, I don’t think it changes it one bit. I think it brings excitement to the series. We do autograph sessions and the fans are talking about the points championship and the battle between us. There are some guys who generally probably wouldn’t be up in the top 10 in points. We’re trying to help Michael Annett get to the top-five in points and that’s cool. A lot of the fans see that, so I think for the series the points, and the way NASCAR has set everything up, has worked out perfect for what they wanted to get accomplished. The competition side we’re gonna go out there and try to win races no matter what the point structure looks like.”
DID YOU AND ELLIOTT HAVE ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP BEFORE YOU STARTED BATTLING HIM FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP LAST YEAR AND HAS IT CHANGED AT ALL SINCE THEN? “No, I knew Elliott and would say ‘hey’ to him when he was over at RPM and was running across the street, but until last year we really weren’t around each other very often. Last year, it was cool because we kind of built a relationship, plus a battle for the championship. I learned a lot from Elliott with his success and time in this sport I was able to learn how to race for a championship – a lot of give-and-take from him – and I think that paid off a lot last year and it’s paid off a lot this year. We get along great. We race each other hard when it’s time to go race, and during the race we give-and-take a lot. It’s been a lot of fun racing Elliott. He’s a guy that I would hang out with off the race track. It’s been a good last two years.”
HAVE YOU HAD ANY ISSUES ON THE TRACK? “Yes, we have. When you’re in the garage 34 weeks a year, us running for a championship, we’re parked next to each other in the garage. Our teams talk to each other. We fly on the same planes to the race tracks. We have a mutual respect for each team. Our teams talk to each other. Our crew chiefs talk to each other. Everybody talks and gets along. You don’t want to be out there hating the guys next to you and not enjoy your year. We do this because we love to do it. If it gets to where it’s a tough time hanging out in the garage because you’re worried about the guys next to you and not getting along, I think you’re taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it.”