By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Though Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will be leaving the cockpit of the No. 17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford at the end of the season, there is still work to do for the 32-year old Mississippian over the final six races of the year.
Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega could be the most important race of those remaining in 2019 as Stenhouse has had success on the superspeedways, claiming his two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins at Daytona and Talladega in 2017.
Stenhouse noted the importance of having a strong performance on Sunday in an effort to deliver his team one more win on his way out the door.
“I just want to get another win for a group of guys that I’ve worked with for a long time, and I know we’ve got a good shot at it,” Stenhouse said. “Brian and the guys always bring a really good car here. Jimmy has been working tirelessly on this and Doug always gives us great horsepower here to get the job done, so for us and the 17 team that’s what we’ve been focused on, that’s what I’ve been focused on.
“Here at Talladega I feel like I’m gonna give it all I’ve got and try to get another win for my guys. It’s the last shot that I get to put Sunny D in Victory Lane and I’ve got a great relationship with them obviously on the track, off the track. I hang out with them a lot, so it would be cool to get them a victory here this weekend.”
When the season ends, Stenhouse will say goodbye to the team that he has driven for throughout his career, starting with ARCA in 2008 before moving up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and eventually the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Stenhouse captured two ARCA wins, eight wins and two championships in the Xfinity Series, and two wins in the Cup Series in his 12 years with the team, but recent struggles since winning those two Cup races in 2017 led the team to go in another direction for the future.
As far as his future in the sport, whether it is in the Cup Series or elsewhere, Stenhouse added that he is leaving that aspect of things up to his management and focusing solely on his on-track efforts for the remainder of the year.
“I let my team off the track, not at Roush, but agent-wise, kind of handle everything beyond that and what we’re gonna do for next year and the options and just try and figure that out,” said Stenhouse. “It’s not a quick process by any means. We’ve talked to different teams and just trying to wait and kind of see what direction we go, but, for me, obviously since the week of Charlotte it’s just trying to put solid weekends together.”
Being on the way out in little more than a month, Stenhouse said that life around the shop is a bit different, with some of the competition meetings that he has been attending all of his career now being off limits.
“I call and give them feedback and let them know how my race was going, and then also we have meetings on the weekend, so like last week at Dover I went to them and just still trying to gather all the information that I can to make our team better for that weekend, and then again turn around and doing it the next week. There’s definitely meetings I’m not allowed to be in anymore,” he explained.
“The way it worked at Roush is we have competition meetings, individual team meetings, and then we’d have a big competition meeting with the Front Row guys and everybody, and then after that it would be kind of an engineering-based meeting of what we’re working on, what’s coming down the pipeline, and that’s just things to keep us drivers engaged and focused on what we were working on, so those are the ones I can’t be in.”
Despite being limited in that aspect, Stenhouse still found humor in his ouster from Roush helping to free up his weekly schedule.
“I’ve got a lot more free time on Mondays,” he said with a laugh.