An Interview With: RICKY STENHOUSE JR. & BRIAN PATTIE
THE MODERATOR: We are going to get started with our Busch Pole Award winner for next Sunday’s 62nd annual Daytona 500. We have Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet. We will open it up for questions.
Q. Ricky, how does it feel to run this new Chevrolet and put it on the pole, extending the streak of poles for the manufacturer?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it feels way different than the Chevy Camaro that they ran last year. I’m just kidding. I don’t know.
It’s the best driving Camaro I’ve ever driven.
No, it’s cool to keep the streak, and it’s something that you don’t really think about when Mr. Hendrick shows up in Victory Lane knowing that we’re running his engine package, going to the engine shop and seeing all the guys a couple weeks ago and just saying hey to them, it’s something different that I haven’t driven. So to keep the streak alive of the Chevys and Hendrick engines on the pole and on the front row is pretty cool because I know everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing has worked really hard this off season, and I think that’s what makes it special to me is knowing that those guys put in the effort. They put in the work. Not only just the work but they know exactly what to do to make our cars fast, and it’s a good way to start our new relationship with JTG.
Q. Do you feel like you need to prove something this year and like today was some first step? Do you know where I’m headed with that?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: No, yeah, I think there’s a handful of us that feel like we have something to prove. And two of those are in my corner with me at JTG Daugherty Racing with Mike and Brian. I know that I feel like I can still get the job done behind the wheel and win races like we did in the Xfinity Series, and I know Brian believes in what the JTG Daugherty their resources that they have at the race shop, the engines, the Chevys. I mean, he just believes in what they have and feel really confident that we’re going to be able to show what we both can do together, and I’m excited to continue that relationship.
That was a huge move for me going over there, bringing people that I’m familiar with that have always been in my corner, and to go to a whole brand new place, I think I’d have been lost not having them there.
But to see the way they mesh with Jodi and Tad and Ernie, the way they’ve built that place up, they’ve smoothed transition right in, and just being at the shop with all the new people that the company has, it’s been a good off season, but we definitely have something to prove.
I know that this is Daytona 500 qualifying. It’s one lap. It’s one weekend. But I know that they’re putting the same effort into our Las Vegas car that we’re taking to Las Vegas as what they’ve been putting into our 500 car.
I think this is just signs of things to come, of our speed that we’re going to have with our 47 team.
Q. Somebody like Mike who’s been with you throughout most of your career, and Brian more recently, what did that do for your confidence coming over to JTG because for two guys just to uproot what they were doing speaks volumes as far as what they felt about your potential.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It does, and Brian has done a lot in this sport on the Cup side and has worked with different drivers and different teams. Mike obviously was with Roush Fenway longer than I was, and for them to follow me over was a lot of confidence that it built up in me that they still felt like I could get the job done, but also they toured the shops, they went through and felt like the resources that JTG Daugherty Racing has are what we need to up our level of competition.
You know, them being in the shop every day, talking to them on the days that I was out dirt racing, just talking about the things that they were getting done in the shop brought a lot of confidence to me, as well, even when I wasn’t at the shop.
Having them in there working day in and day out has really helped the transition and helped my confidence.
Q. And you also looked very solid in open wheel racing in the off season. How did that help you keep sharp, just Daytona is a completely different animal than anything you do, but how did having the opportunity just to stay in a race car keep you sharp and prepare you for coming in here?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, definitely ran more midget races this off season than I have in the past few years, and I’m glad I did that. Just staying in the seat, running more dirt races in a row, got more confidence built up. We were fast at quite a few of those races and felt really good and comfortable in the car. Just enjoyed my off season, and going to the shop, going dirt racing and just getting prepared for the season, it never hurts when you’re behind the wheel of something. I was ready to go when we got here.
Q. Ricky, your fellow competitors have mixed feelings about you on plate races. You’ve obviously gotten the job done, you’ve won on these races, you’ve also been in situations that didn’t make you many friends.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Maybe only like two. They act like it’s every race.
Q. I wasn’t saying it was every race now.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it’s their opinion. Maybe two in the same race. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you think you now have a chance to win this race and will you get the kind of help it’s going to take to win it?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I think I’ve noticed over the years of speedway racing that when you have a fast car, obviously you get sometimes you get more people to work with you, sometimes you don’t. But I noticed we qualified on the pole at Talladega. The car was really fast, and I felt like it was easier for me to make moves knowing that I felt like I had enough speed to pull out of line and get the job done.
You know, that to me is all that really matters is I know what our car is capable of speed wise, and that helps me make moves.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined by crew chief Brian Pattie.
Q. I have kind of a similar question. The fact that you have a fast car, how does that change decision making as far as how daring a move you make?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I think for me in the little drafting that I did on Saturday’s practice, you know, the car definitely drives a little bit different. I feel like my moves are going to have to be a little bit more calculated, at least for the Duels. I know Brian, we’ve already talked about a few things that we need to adjust on our race car for Sunday. I feel like your car on Sunday needs to be a lot different than you qualify and run your Duel with, and so we’re going to continue to look at that. I feel like I want to learn a lot Thursday in the Duel to try and figure out what all we need come Sunday because in those practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, you end up getting a little bit of a draft, but you don’t get a race draft like you do on Thursday.
We’re going to just take notes, and we’ve got a full week to come up with what we need for Sunday during the 500.
But definitely going to have to be a little bit more calculated when your car is a little bit looser, but when Brian gets it dialed in for me, I’ll be able to be aggressive again.
Q. What was the process of this team coming together with all the familiarity and the process of saying we want a lot of familiarity? Were you the first piece, Ricky, and then they asked you what do you need, or was it kind of more methodical and it was kind of by happenstance you guys were available and all ended up here?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: All of the above.
BRIAN PATTIE: No comment.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It all just worked out really well. I’m definitely happy the way everything worked out to, like I said, have Brian, have Mike in my corner on the same team and helping that transition. That was one of the pieces is just to be comfortable with somebody and make that transition as smooth as possible.
Q. And kind of on a related note, Brian, just being able to continue the relationships, when you have that familiarity, it makes it a lot easier to hit the ground running this year, right?
BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, I don’t have to worry about figuring out driver lingo, what he needs or what he’s trying to say. Working together for three years, it’s a little bit easier. Yeah, I’m not worried about the communication. It’s been there since day one. Obviously we had success in ’17 and we need to get it back there.
Q. Brian, I have to ask you as a fellow central Floridian, this has got to be pretty cool for you to have done this in your home state and I can only imagine how proud you are.
BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, it’s cool. We sat on the pole here in the 400 with Biffle in ’16, won both Xfinity races here in the 400 and the fall, so this is the last one on the bucket list, and is obviously is a big step. So this is a step in the right direction, and yeah, it means a lot.
Q. Brian, for people that don’t know Ricky, what was it about him that you committed to making this move from your comfortable spot over at Roush and jumping kind of into the unknown at JTG and just following him and being able to be in a position where you could support him?
BRIAN PATTIE: You know, it was multiple things. Obviously Ricky was a huge part, but just talking to Tad, Tad and Ernie, met with them for three hours. That’s a pretty long interview. The crazy thing is we talked about racing maybe 20 percent of the time. So I wanted to get a feel for how they are character wise away from the track, what kind of people they are. And it reminded me a lot of NEMCO. I told them that. Had a lot of success at NEMCO for 11 years, and I want to get back to that.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I bragged him a lot, and I bribed.
Q. As far as Ricky, you know what he can accomplish?
BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, obviously we’ve had success, won races, and I think the mentality we have at JTG, it’s a racing mentality of just do what it takes, fits me, fits my mold. I’m not a meeting guy. I hate meetings. When you have more than one meeting in a week, it kind of frustrates me, especially when they get nothing accomplished. This program just seems easier, right. They trust what I have to say, and we just do it. We get graded every Sunday night, and obviously we were graded today and we have an A+, but we need to do this for 36 weeks.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations and good luck next Sunday.
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