Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. met with the media Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and talked about his release from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT CAME DOWN THIS WEEK? "A lot came down. It was unfortunate, for sure. Definitely tough timing for myself and my group to try to find another option, but, all in all, I’ve got to look back on the 11 years that I had with Jack and winning races and championships and getting my first Cup win and being competitive – not as consistent as what we wanted, but the end of it all I’m very thankful that Jack took a chance on a dirt racer from Mississippi to come drive his car. It was fun, a little emotional with the relationship Jack and I have. It’s the only team I’ve ever been at, so I’m looking forward to see what’s next. Like I said, there’s a lot of work to do on that, but, all in all, I’m definitely looking forward to these last eight with the great partners that we have, everybody on the 17 team. I’ve worked with a lot of them since my Nationwide days, so it will be tough, but it will be a fun eight races with them."
DO YOU WANT TO STAY IN THE CUP SERIES FOR NEXT YEAR? "Yeah, I think that’s definitely always the preference. I’m open to anything, for sure."
ANGRY, DISAPPOINTED. WHAT ARE THOSE EMOTIONS? "Over the past two days I’d say I went angry, sad, optimistic, looking forward. Sometimes change is good and like I said it just didn’t work. It hadn’t been working over the last couple years. We’ve had speed, we just haven’t had consistent finishes. I think that’s what sucks for myself is I feel like we’ve had plenty of speed to get the job done, it’s just a lot of things came down to us not getting those results. Ultimately, that’s what we’re here for is results and they weren’t coming."
HOW DO YOU MOVE FORWARD THE REST OF THIS YEAR? "I think this weekend is probably gonna be the toughest, and at a race track that I’m not very good at, so definitely a tough weekend here. I look at the race tracks we have left and how we’ve ran on the mile-and-a-half race tracks, definitely have some good opportunities to run well and showcase what I feel like I can still do behind the wheel. I feel like my team, the 17 team, they’re gonna work hard and make sure that they give me the best piece to go showcase that."
JACK SAID YOU HAD A GOOD CONVERSATION LAST NIGHT. DO YOU AGREE? "Yeah, it was a good conversation. I waited to have that conversation with Jack because having it Wednesday probably wouldn’t have been a good idea, but Jack and I, we’ve had some knockdown-drag outs in the 11 years we’ve had together, but it was a good conversation. I thanked him for all the good times and the fun times that we had and look forward to see what’s next."
HOW DOES AN ATHLETE HANDLE BEING TOLD YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH? "We’ve been good enough, just I would say recently we haven’t. I feel like those wins were important in 2017. It’s been a long time since Roush Fenway had been in Victory Lane and it’s cool to be able to say that I was the last one to do that and kind of cut that losing streak down. I walked right past that car, which I have to go get it out of the museum. That one is mine. Jack gave it to me, so I think it’s part of it. At times I think it can kind of reset your focus and make sure you go out and do the best you can and look for that next opportunity to showcase what you’ve got."
HOW WAS THE CONVERSATION WEDNESDAY WHEN THEY TOLD YOU? "I got a text on Tuesday night to say, ‘swing by the shop tomorrow at 11.’ I’ve gotten plenty of those texts before, so I didn’t really think anything of it and then my agent called me, I was drinking coffee at 7:30 Wednesday morning getting ready to go work out and he was like, ‘Hey, they called me to come to the shop.’ So, when he said that, I was like, ‘that’s probably not very good.’ We went in the shop at 11, so I found out just soon before everybody else did. I didn’t really have any knowing that it was coming, but that’s part of it. I know people get fired every day from their jobs and I can’t feel sorry for myself. I’ve got to make sure that we look forward, like I said, to these eight races and what can we land to showcase what I’ve got for 2020."
WHY DON’T YOU THINK YOU WERE ABLE TO GET THE FINISHES NEWMAN HAS BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE SEE. HE COMES IN NEW AND MAKES THE PLAYOFFS? "I feel like over the year we’ve had a lot more speed than the 6 team. That’s come with some consequences. We’ve blown a lot of right-front tires. We’ve made contact with the wall and cut down some tires. Obviously, my mistakes the last two weeks weren’t ideal. I feel like there’s no one thing that really sticks out this year that can say, ‘hey, this is our issue.’ We overheated at Darlington. There has been a lot of issues, a lot I’ve caused, a lot I haven’t, but that’s part of it. That’s Newman’s M.O. He’s really good at getting the finishes and the consistency and looking back on this year, I think that’s one thing that I’ve really learned is no matter where I go next or looking at these next eight races is take what Newman does. I think I’ve been kind of saying it in the media that he’s done a really good job to get those finishes out of our race cars when I feel like maybe the speed wasn’t a 10th-place car, but he’s able to finish there and that’s why he’s been around for a long time. I feel like that’s a good asset to have. Looking at my career, I try and win races and I drive the car as hard as I can. That bites you sometimes and maybe now as an athlete you look back on those situations and look what you could do different and actually you learn from it and do those things different next time."
DID YOU FEEL YOU CRASHED TOO MUCH? "Yeah, I mean, I would say we’ve crashed, but I’ve lost brakes a lot of times, I’ve blown right-front tires a lot of times. Obviously, those are wrecks. I’ve caused a couple myself, so, yeah, I definitely would say we’ve wrecked too much."
DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD STILL BE IN THE CAR IF CHRIS’ SITUATION HADN’T HAPPENED? "I’ve got no clue. I didn’t really ask too many questions. I sat there, listened, and then left."
DID YOU FEEL IT WAS COMING? WERE YOU BLINDSIDED BY IT? "Yeah, pretty blindsided. Obviously, eight races left or whatever we have left is pretty late in the game. Halfway through the season would have been a little nicer to be able to go look for something else to do, but it’s their business and I’ve got to go with it. Like I said, no hard feelings. I’ve been angry at times, but, for the most part, I look back on all of it and I’m super-thankful."
DO YOU HAVE TIME TO REGROUP FOR NEXT YEAR? "I don’t really know if I have time to regroup. Like I said, my team is working on trying to figure out what next year looks like. Like I said, a month ago would have been a little nicer, but it is what it is. I’ll let my guys handle that and I’ll just stick to the racing on the track and make sure that I bring the 17 team and our sponsors the best finishes we can for the rest of the year."
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED? "It’s not hard to stay motivated. I always drive the car hard, no matter what the circumstances are, so, for me, motivation is always high."
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO THINK COMING OUT OF THIS? "I really don’t have anything else to say. I feel like I can still get the job done. I look back at my Nationwide Series career and how well we did there against a lot of Cup drivers that were in the field each and every week, and those guys are the ones winning championships and races over here. My Cup career hasn’t been great, but I still think that you look at other people’s Cup careers and it took awhile for them to get going, so I think, for me, I look at that as an opportunity to still turn my Cup Series career around."
HAVE ANY CUP TEAMS REACHED OUT TO YOU? "I have not had any conversations with anybody yet."
BUT YOUR AGENTS MAY HAVE. "My agent has been talking to everybody. He’s trying to figure that out."
— Ford Performance —