By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. left last July’s race at Daytona as Public Enemy No. 1, having been involved in more than a few of the multi-car crashes that defined the 400-mile race. Despite the criticism, Stenhouse noted his only regrets from that night are that he didn’t get to make a trip to Victory Lane when all was said and done.
“The only issue I had with July is we didn’t win,” Stenhouse said. “I could care less what the perception of everybody else is. I’m gonna go out and run our race the way we normally run.
“I like our process, I like the aggressiveness that we have. I love the Fords that Roush brings and my spotter, Mike Hillman Jr., is really good, so we’ll continue to work hard together and I feel like we’ve got a good opportunity.”
The 31-year old broke through with a pair of wins on restrictor plate tracks back in 2017 and has found himself in the mix for wins since then, but hasn’t been able to climb back to the top of the mountain and snag another win.
With the ability his No. 17 team has shown in the past to win on these types of tracks, Stenhouse noted that if they were able to win Sunday’s Daytona 500, it would be monumental not only for him as a driver, but also for his newly minted NASCAR Hall of Fame owner Jack Roush.
“It would be huge,” Stenhouse said. “To see him as excited as he was in 2017 when we won both races at Talladega and Daytona, anytime you can add another Daytona 500 to the owner’s cabinet would mean a lot. We’re going on 11 years with Jack now so it would be cool to do that for him.”
Given his aggressiveness in the past that has paid off, Stenhouse added that the style of racing that he rode to his two wins is just the way of the world now at Daytona and Talladega, with the winner of the Great American Race likely having to employ those same strategies to be victorious.
“Plate racing is all about aggressiveness now and making the right moves and your spotter giving you that information of when to move down, which lane is coming,” he stated. “I feel like that communication between you and your spotter is getting more and more important.
“I feel like the races that we won in 2017 if it wasn’t for our spotter, there was no way I would have made some of the correct moves to get to the front or stay in the front, so it’s just part of it. It’s fun, but it’s also I don’t want to say dangerous, but you’re living on the edge as far as running into people, cutting it too close, so it’s just part of it.”