Stenhouse Repeats as NASCAR Nationwide Champion
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. GIVES FORD RACING FOURTH NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP
· Ricky Stenhouse Jr. registered his second straight NASCAR Nationwide Series championship today in only his third full season.
· The NASCAR Nationwide Series title is the fourth for Ford Racing and Roush Fenway Racing (Greg Biffle in 2002, Carl Edwards in 2007 and Stenhouse Jr. in 2011).
· This marks the 13th driver’s championship for Ford Racing in NASCAR’s top three divisions combined (8 NSCS, 4 NNS, 1 NCWTS) and the seventh overall for Roush Fenway Racing (2 NSCS, 4 NNS, 1 NCWTS).
· Greg Biffle became the first driver in NASCAR history to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Biffle captured the 2002 NNS title in dominant fashion as he posted a series-best 25 top-10 and 20 top-5 finishes in 34 starts. In addition, he tied for first with poles (5) and wins (4), but his consistency throughout led to a 264-point victory for the championship over second-place Jason Keller.
· Carl Edwards won his first NASCAR championship in even more dominating fashion than Biffle as he claimed the championship by 618 points over runner-up David Reutimann. Edwards led the series with 21 top-10 finishes while tying for most top-5 efforts with 15 in 35 starts. He swept both races at Nashville for two of his four wins on the season with the other two coming at Bristol and Dover. Edwards was in charge of the points race pretty much the entire season, taking the lead after a fourth-place finish on the Mexico City road course in the third event of the year and never giving it up.
· Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in only his second full season of competition through consistency. He led the point standings for 17 weeks, including the final 14, and won the first two races of his career as he swept both events at Iowa Speedway. Stenhouse Jr. battled Elliott Sadler the final month of the season, but came out on top by virtue of six top-5 and nine top-10 finishes over the final 10 races.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang – “We were loose. We’ve had loose race cars before and made an adjustment there. I was questioning how far we should go, but I think we went a little too far to have a run at it there at the end. I got a little too tight, but I can’t say enough about these guys. It’s been fun. I’ve got to say hi to my granddad at home. He’s not doing as well as he needs to be, so I want to say ‘hey’ to him and we’ll see him soon. But I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to everybody else as well.”
YOUR LAST RACE WITH MIKE KELLEY AS CREW CHIEF. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU WHAT THESE GUYS HAVE GIVEN YOU THE LAST TWO YEARS? “It means we’re leaving Trevor in great hands. These guys have done an awesome job. Mike has been a great crew chief to work with, but, more than that, he’s a great friend. We spend a lot of time together and these guys spend a lot of time on the road together and you can’t ask for a better group. Hopefully, they can make it three in a row next year.”
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN ROUSH FENWAY HISTORY SOMEONE HAS GONE BACK-TO-BACK. WHAT A SEASON. “Thank you. It is unbelievable. These guys have put a lot of hard work into it. From the engine shop to the body shop and chassis shop these guys that go on the road and their families. There are a lot of people that have put a lot of effort into this. I am just the lucky guy that gets to drive it.”
THIS SEASON, YOU HAD AN ADVANTAGE AND THEN THINGS WENT DOWNHILL A BIT, ESPECIALLY AT DOVER. DESCRIBE THE RESILENCY OF THIS RACE TEAM. “We never give up. It doesn’t matter how beat up the car is. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. We dig as hard as we can. It is a group of racers and that is what racers do. They race hard whether it is over the wall, in the pits, in the garage or us out there on the race track. It is special to be in this position.”
BEING A TWO-TIME CHAMPION NOW, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE ENORMITY OF THIS? “Yeah, it is really neat to be able to go back-to-back when only now six of us have done it. That is pretty special. It really makes me see how hard that 48 team works on the Cup side with five in a row. It was a great two years and we have had a lot of fun. We look forward to our opportunity next year.”
MIKE KELLEY, Crew Chief, No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang – “It has been a long season, 33 or 34 weeks, whatever it is. Starting over with a new team and then week in and week out we had some highs and lows and it came down to this. This is what we set out to do after we got here last year. Ricky is such a good champion. He worked hard, we worked hard and set our goals high. It is really nice to get them.” IT GOT CRAZY THERE TOWARD THE END, FOUR-WIDE AT ONE POINT, HOW WAS THAT VIEW? “Well, that is just the racer in Ricky. He wants to win every race we are in and you can’t ask more than that. We were big picture racing and just had to do what was right tonight which was not lose our sight on what we set as our goal back at the end of last year. It was good.”
JACK ROUSH, co-owner, No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang – “It is great to be here on Ford Championship Weekend under any scenario when we have competitive Fords. Ricky Stenhouse has won our first back-to-back championship for a driver in a series. We had back-to-back Cup championships in 2003 and 2004 but with different drivers. He did a great job and he has made a great champion and is going to make a great Cup driver next year.”
MICHAEL ANNETT – No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang – “We started off as one of the fastest cars on the track, but starting 32nd isn’t gonna help you at all. That’s the second week in a row we put on tires and it felt like we made 50 different changes. We didn’t really have the car we needed until the second-to-last stop and then we put on tires there at the end and had only one goal – and that was to keep the 31 in our sights. We went car for car all the way through there and came home. I don’t know where we even finished, but I know we’re going on stage.”
THE FACT THIS DEAL CAME TOGETHER SO LATE AND TO HAVE THE SEASON YOU DID, HOW DOES IT FEEL? “I wish it wasn’t over. We started off probably a little bit too slow, but how could you not starting a month before the season started. The way we improved at about the halfway mark is a testament to how hard these guys were working and what they’re capable of and, like I said, I wish the season wasn’t over because I think now we’re just hitting our stride.”
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR YOU TO HAVE A YEAR LIKE THIS AND KNOW THIS DEAL IS IN PLACE NEXT YEAR? “Now it’s time to go win races. We’ve proven we can run top five. We’ve proved we can run top 10 easily so now it’s time to just start bringing home wins and be where the 6 car is right now.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. CHAMPIONSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang – HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN TWO STRAIGHT? “It feels really good. I think it’s just a testament to how hard Jack works to put these guys together. I guess Mike’s drinking already. I don’t know where he is (laughing). But he’s done a great job building this team. He came to me when I was a rookie in 2010 and brought speed in the car and helped me to finish these races and figure this out. We won rookie of the year in 2010 and we were at the banquet and said that we wanted to be there in 2011 and we were able to accomplish that. And to sit up there last year we told each other we wanted six to 10 wins and another championship and we got that. It’s just a lot of hard work by a lot of great people and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
JACK ROUSH, Co-Owner, No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN BACK-TO-BACK TITLES? “It’s been my honor and distinct privilege to be part of the NASCAR operation here for 25 years. I’ve had a lot of great driver-crew chief combinations over the years and I’ve never had anything that has worked better than the relationship between Mike Kelley and Ricky. They are both gonna do very well in this business for a long time to come. It’s hard to put together a second championship on the heels of a first, especially when it’s your first and second that you’re dealing with. I’ve never seen it done before. I guess it’s been done, but certainly not by my crowd, and Ricky and Mike really deserve my thanks and my credit for the great job they did. The sponsors behind the program, of course, made it all possible. Cargill is really important as all the other sponsors. Ford Motor Company has been unwavering over 40 years of support for the team. We’ve had a great time and it’s just super to be down here with Ford Championship Weekend and we’re able to celebrate another championship.”
RICKY STENHOUSE CONTINUED – WERE THERE SOME ANXIOUS MOMENTS NEAR THE END? “There were some anxious moments for our spotter, and I got tired of listening so I keyed up the microphone so he couldn’t talk to me anymore (laughter). He wanted me to let him go and, of course, I wanted 20 top fives at least so we came up one spot short. We wanted to win the race. That’s what we come to do each and every week and that’s what got us in the position that we were in. I felt like at times throughout the race we were OK and the second-to-last run we were really, really loose and made a big adjustment. I think we just over-adjusted a little bit, but I like racing hard like that. That’s what I do. That’s what I enjoy and that’s why I love racing. That’s just how I drive.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – “Mike Calinoff was trying to do what he thought was best for Ricky and best for the team. He was getting on Ricky’s nerves a little bit and he was getting on my nerves as well. All of the alarms went off when the microphone got stuck and I motioned to Mike that it was the steering wheel and he was doing it himself – it was in the car. To start with they thought maybe it was a crewman that had a microphone depressed, but there was a car noise there and Ricky had pushed it. My concern was that he’d fool around and hit the wall while he was trying to hold the damn button down (laughter).” RICKY INTERJECTS: “It was only 10 laps.”
MIKE KELLEY, Crew Chief – No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang – “Mike was well aware of what was going on. I just want to let you know.” TALK ABOUT TWO TITLES IN A ROW. “We put a lot of work in. Jack gave us all the opportunities we needed. The toughest thing we probably took for granted over the last couple of years was having teammates and trying to do it without a teammate, really relying on everything Ricky tells us each and every week, and making sure we had good enough cars to give him what he needed to do. Obviously, when our cars are close or really good, it’s tough for anyone to stand up to Ricky out there, but there have been a couple weeks where we missed and didn’t give him the things he needed and he was able to bring them home with solid finishes. It comes up to a night like tonight where we were able to reach a goal that we set and that’s a really good feeling.”
RICKY STENHOUSE CONTINUED – WERE YOU FRUSTRATED BY THE END OF THE RACE? AND WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN LIKE IF YOU HAD HIT THE WALL? “I don’t think about that. I go out and drive 100 percent every lap. I ran the bottom when I needed to. I ran the very top when I needed to and ran the middle. I don’t know. Luckily, I’m not having to tell you how it would have felt. Like I said, I like to go out and have fun. I like to drive hard and I don’t ride around. That’s not how we got in our position. I think if I rode around a little bit, we wouldn’t have been even close in the points. I think we could have stretched it out this year, but driving that hard I’ve made some mistakes and got us where it was close, but, I don’t know how that feels.”
WERE YOU MAD AT THE END OF THE RACE? YOU DIDN’T SOUND HAPPY ON THE RADIO. “We lost the race. I like winning races. I didn’t come to Homestead, my favorite race track, to run sixth. I think seeing my guys excited is what I like to see and I know they were excited and their families were excited and they have put a lot of effort into letting them go on the road. Yeah, I am excited about it and definitely excited and will celebrate the championship for sure on Monday. We have a Cup race to run tomorrow. I am just pretty disappointed we didn’t win the race.”
MIKE KELLEY CONTINUED – WHY DID YOU TURN DOWN THE OFFER TO MOVE UP WITH RICKY NEXT SEASON? “A couple of reasons are involved in that. Obviously I think with Ricky going to the Cup series he is going to need someone that really knows those cars a lot and has been around those cars a lot. This year I was really solely integrated into the Nationwide side. We are affiliated with the Cup team and I can use the resources as I need them but there is me and my engineer and Dave Simba and we stay focused on that and I haven’t had any interaction really with the Cup side in anything they needed or are doing. I told Jack that I thought Ricky needed the very best crew chief, the most technically smart crew chief because those cars are a lot different than what we are used to. I think he deserved going in as a rookie to have the very best. Also I have two small children at home and being a Cup crew chief is a seven day a week, 70-hour a week job. I love being home on Sunday and spending it with my kids right now. I told Jack the other night that I will go to the Cup level again and I will win races for Jack and I will win a championship for Jack and if our paths cross again with Ricky that it would be a dream come true for me. For the last two and a half years from the very first time we sat in a trailer in Phoenix and spit in our hands the three of us in 2010 and said we would stick this out together the ride has been amazing. We had some tough days at the beginning and wrecked a lot of race cars and we missed a race at Nashville and nobody ever gave up or quit. We kept pushing and got where we needed to be last year. That wasn’t enough. We set the bar high. When I got back from the banquet last year and got to the shop I had three guys left from my team from the championship deal and Jack said that we were going to do this again and put a new team together for Ricky and contend for the championship. Not one person looked at it any other way.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. CONTINUED-- HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO YOUR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP? “I think it is bigger. Obviously the performances this year was a lot better than last year. I think that is what you have to look at. Obviously it is special having that first championship but when you can go out and you are a car to beat every week then that is what classifies a great year. I felt like we were that car this year. Everybody knew showing up to the racetrack that we were going to have to be beat to win the race. I think that makes this year more special.”
BRIAN FRANCE MENTIONED TODAY ABOUT DIGITIZING CARS IN THE FUTURE. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO INTERACTING WITH FANS VIA TWITTER? “Are you telling me we are going to be tweeting and driving at the same time? I guess I better start practicing. (laughter) It is always cool to have fans. I tell the kids all the time to not do that. Anything we can do to bring the fans closer to what we do each and every day I think is a good thing. If it wasn’t for fans we wouldn’t be able to be out here doing this sport. We thank them a lot but anything that gets them closer to seeing what we do each day is pretty cool.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – “I want to correct an impression that I think some people may have. Ricky didn’t run as many laps in practice probably as he wanted to because we were being careful to make sure we didn’t put too many miles on the engine. The car may not have been set up as well as it was a year ago or has been for most of our races. The reason Ricky didn’t advance more than he did in the race wasn’t because Mike Calinoff was holding him back, it was because most of the race the car didn’t handle and it didn’t handle at the end and that was part of his frustration I am sure. There was a strategy that said that we were not going to take a chance on breaking a part and Mike was being careful to protect a set of tires. So for that reason I think that we weren’t our best in terms of the car setup and that reflected more in the fact that Ricky finished sixth than any strategy or anything the spotter said.”
JAMIE ALLISON, director, Ford Racing -- “This is for every Ford fan and every Ford NASCAR fan that roots for Ford. Congratulations to Roush Fenway Racing, Ricky, Mike Kelley and the entire 6 team for their accomplishment this season. What a strong season they turned in. They never once gave up, and persevered all the way back to the top. Back-to-back championships is such a special accomplishment and we at Ford Racing couldn’t be prouder of what they have done.”