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May 7, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We will continue on with today's post‑race media availability for the 48th annual Geico 500 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and we're joined by today's race‑winning team, including Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No.17 Fifth Third Bank Ford. We have crew chief Brian Pattie. We have team owner Jack Roush and team president Steve Newmark. Ricky, we're going to start with you. This has been a long time coming for you. How sweet this victory for you, your first win in 158 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Doesn't get any sweeter. You know, I look at our first 150 or so, and I can only hope that the next 150 are going to be kind of like Joey Logano's. He had 300 races, the first 150 weren't great, the next 150 were. Hopefully this is a start of that. A lot of hard work from Brian Pattie, Steve and Jack and everybody at the shop to continue to put race cars out there and continue to give us the resources, and man, it's awesome to finally finish it off.
THE MODERATOR: Brian, you brought a fast Fifth Third Ford here to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Just walk us through the race from your perspective, the strategy to get Ricky in position to win this race.
BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, obviously Friday was a surprise to all of us, how much speed it had. Yeah, all the four teams got together this morning and talked and came up with a strategy for the first two segments. Most all our four teammates helped us out. Gained some stage points, which is not what we've done the first seven or eight races, so that was nice to finish second. Second one got a little out of control and a little damage. Guys did a nice job fixing it up, and yeah, the last one is just‑‑ you just hope for the best, right? It's just get yourself in position and thank God at the end with the green‑white‑checker we were in the first two rows, and that's pretty much where you're going to win from.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, this organization has had its well‑documented struggles but it's turned a corner this year. Walk us through what it means for this organization and Ford Performance really to come through today.
STEVE NEWMARK: Sure, I think for me personally it's the most gratifying win since I've been at Roush, just seeing all the effort went into it. In fact, I told Jack that in Victory Lane, and he looked at me and said, please don't kiss me. But I came on board at the same time that Ricky did and have seen kind of the highs and lows and watching him mature and watching him basically have a determination that he was going to make it happen, and then you give a lot to credit to Doug Yates and Ford Performance for standing behind us during times that we weren't performing up to our own expectations. And then of course this year we made some changes in Robby Reiser, a lot of his efforts paid off with Kevin Kidd and Tommy Wheeler taking over and really taking us to the next level.
It's just a tremendous win for the entire organization.
THE MODERATOR: Jack, congratulations again on the win today, and it's been a long time since you've been able to join us in here for a post‑race media availability in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but you've never lost faith in this driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and you've never lost faith in this organization. Talk about how special this win is for you today.
JACK ROUSH: Ricky demonstrated, of course, before he came to us six or eight years ago that he was a champion. He'd won at everything he'd done with his father, and of course he won the second year in the XFINITY Series and the third year consecutively, won the championships. I just needed to find the speed in the cars and get the organizational prowess to be able to do timely development that was acceptable to NASCAR, and I knew it would come together.
This has been its ebbs and flows, its ups and downs. I've been stock car racing for 30 years in 2016, so this is my 31st year. But I had already been racing on a national level, drag racing and road racing for 20 years before I started with the stock car, with NASCAR. So I've enjoyed a lot of success, had a lot of really talented and able and dedicated people that have led us to victory, and today with Jimmy Fennig leads the speedway program, and Doug Yates built us great engines at the engine shop. We missed‑‑ I didn't manage to get Jimmy Fennig into victory circle and I think Doug had left before the race started, but we'll celebrate with him tomorrow. But it's great to be there with Ford Performance. They give us a lot of tools in our toolbox and they give us unfettered support from their technical people that the things that they've got labs and all to do that are applied to what we're doing, and to be able to carry the banner for Ford is really special.
Q. As Jack just mentioned you had won at every level and then you got to the Cup level and it's been very, very difficult. What has it been like for you to struggle and also to know that things are being worked on and you just have to be patient, and you missed this race three, four years ago, so how good does it feel to get your first win here?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It feels really good to get that first win here. I remember sitting in the bus watching this race and knowing that this is a racetrack that we've had good success at, we've ran well. You know, so close to home. It feels awesome to get the first win here.
You know, as far as coming into the Cup Series, I had a lot of confidence with what we had done in the XFINITY Series, and then the first year we had some really good runs, and the first Kansas race, we almost won. So I thought, oh, we're going to get a win here pretty soon. I felt things kind of took a turn for the worse, and we just weren't performing as well as we started the season, and it just was a big, big struggle.
But you know, I think you go through that so long that you almost lose a little‑‑ all your confidence. You know, we would have good runs here and there that would kind of boost that confidence back up and get everybody kind of energized again, and then we would kind of lose it.
What we did last year I thought was‑‑ we started the season fairly good. We fell off in the middle part of the season, but we came back, and our last handful of races, we had fast cars, and so I believed in the direction that we were going. The off‑season, the whole attitude at our shop changed, and the people in each department were putting in more hours and working harder to make sure we started the season as best we could.
I do think that we started a little stronger than we thought we would, but then we've also continued to make gains and continued to up our performance.
There's still things to clean up, and there's still things to get a lot better at, but man, it feels awesome to have everybody at Roush Fenway stand behind us, Fifth Third, Fastenal, Sunny D. They've stood behind us throughout our Cup career, and it takes a lot from everybody.
Q. Is your confidence back?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: My confidence has been really high all year. You know, we got crashed at Daytona, and you just kind of write that off. It's Daytona, or a superspeedway. We went to Atlanta, qualified well, ran up to second, made a mistake at the end that cost us the top‑5 finish I felt like, so I felt like we had the speed there.
We know what racetracks we need to work on. I think Kansas will be a good test for us. I feel like the older, worn‑out racetracks that we have on our schedule are really good for us. We're continuing to strive to make our cars better, and I feel confident that guys back at the shop, Brian and everyone, there's not many teams that pay attention to the details I feel like that the 17 team does.
Q. Did you have a chance during that last caution to sort of plan what you might try to do, or was the ultimate pass just a matter of sort of instinct?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I feel like at these races, if you come up with a plan, you generally have to abort from it pretty quick. I had never been in that position, and I didn't know what I needed to do. I knew that I had a good pusher with Jimmie behind me. We had pushed him the restart before, so I was hoping he was going to return the favor, and he did. It was a bummer to not have any Ford Performance teammates up there. But I knew our car was fast enough that we still led lines all day and was really fast and could bring a line up through the field. I knew that if I could get to the quarterpanel of the 18 that I could side draft him enough, and I felt like our car was as good on the bottom as it was on the top. With Jimmie pushing me, pushed me out front. I thought I was clear one time and tried to go up and block the 18 but I wasn't quite clear. We were really close a few times. You know, man, I was looking in my mirror. My spotter was telling me everywhere to go, and there at the end, I felt like I was needing to block the 1, but the 18 was coming, so I was kind of back and forth, didn't know which one to pick. You know, my spotter told me to pick the top, block the 18, and it all paid off. But we didn't really have a plan. I learned a lot in the first stage when we were leading those 10 or 11 laps there with Brad behind me, watching what he was doing to keep us out front. I was kind of just following where he was going, so I kind of learned a lot right there, as well.
Q. Ricky, you're the first driver from Mississippi to win a race since 1988. What does that mean to be able to bring a win back to your home state?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It's awesome. I love my home state. I've got a lot of supporters there, and I was just in the state capitol about a month ago, and it was cool to go there. There's a lot of people that are proud to be from Mississippi, and I'm one of them. To bring a win back to the state is really cool.
Q. Ricky, you talked about having a co pilot there on that last lap. Can you talk about how your life has changed since Bryan has been gone?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I lost one of my best friends, Bryan Clauson, last year in August, and we had a lot of good plans that we were wanting to have together, and they didn't work out. But you know, the support of his family, the support of dirt track fans all across the country of myself and of Bryan and his family has been really cool to see. It's been a while now, and the support and the‑‑ everybody remembering Bryan has not gone down at all. It's continued, and that's just the legacy I feel like Bryan left upon all of us.
He was the organ donor that we didn't know about, and I haven't got to meet Dan, who has Bryan's heart. His family did a couple weeks ago, and you know, it's cool to see Bryan still helping people after he passed away.
I look forward to meeting people that Bryan helped along the way, and I signed up to be a donor right after that. If anybody is looking into it, Driven to Save Lives is a campaign in honor of Bryan Clauson this year. They're doing a lot of great work. It was cool to finally park it in Victory Lane like Bryan always said, and I can't wait to call his dad and his fiancé Lauren when we're done.
Q. Jack, when you see cooperation like that between the Fords, it seemed like they really worked well together, and overall it's paid off for Ford Performance this year.
JACK ROUSH: Was that for me?
Q. The spirit of cooperation among the Fords, it seems it's really paid off in 2017.
JACK ROUSH: Ford has got a technical center that applies cement on the teams, and of course their management group spends time moving from team to team reminding us that it's one Ford and that we should be‑‑ look at our other Ford teammates as being closer to us than the rest of the field, and it's easier for me to do that because I've been a Ford guy since 1964. But you know, for the people that have come more recently, it's properly a little harder sell sometimes.
But we've got a lot of speed with our Fords, and the Ford technical group I think is the top of their game right now, and we've got good fast cars and good fast engines, and it's a matter of us to execute correctly on the racetrack, keep it on the black stuff, and get our share of victories.
Q. How do you characterize this reputation that you're kind of getting here this weekend? You snatched a pole from you know who yesterday on the last run of qualifying, and then you snatched a win today basically over time and the last lap? I think you said something yesterday about hoping that that other guy's fans would let you win a race today. It just kind of turned out neat that you're snatching wins from people.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it's awesome. Yesterday was all about the team, the car, the engine. I was able to go out and drive it, and that's what got us the pole. I was messing with Junior before the race and told him that I was a little nervous going out on the Boulevard last night after taking that pole away from him. But I think I gained a lot of fans taking a win away from the 18, I'm just guessing. (Laughter.)
But no, all in all, man, it was a huge day for us, huge weekend.
Q. For everyone that saw you in Victory Lane with Danica, I know that's your girlfriend; for NASCAR that's another driver. What was that like today?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It was special. The pulling into Victory Lane and seeing Jack and Danica standing there together, they're the same height (laughter), it was super special. She supports me through anything I need to do, whether it's spend more time at the shop, whether it's we need to fly somewhere a little bit later because I need to spend a little bit more time with the guys at the shop or want to go to dirt races or anything like that. She's been so supportive and knows how hard that I've worked, and to have her there was really awesome.
You know, I thought that I would get pictures with her and I and she'd still be in her driving suit, so it worked out that she wasn't, but it was really special. I was definitely glad that she was there right when I pulled in.
Q. Did you ever think you were never going to win?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I mean, you get to a point over the last couple years, I probably thought that. The start of this season, I had a different mindset that let's continue to build on what we learned at the end of last year, and let's try and get a win before the season it up. We've got races that we circled that are really good potential for us, Bristol, a lot of the short tracks right now I feel really good at, and Talladega and Daytona, but for sure Talladega because just our average finish here has been really good.
You know, I think we come into this weekend‑‑ after qualifying, I was like, man, I just can't screw this up, we've got a really fast Fifth Third Ford. I was a little more anxious today, but this year I've felt like the way our cars have performed and the way they've driven, I've felt like we could get something in Victory Lane before the season was up. I'm glad it's sooner rather than later.
Q. And to follow up on that and the questions about Danica, when you were talking to some of us a few weeks ago, there were a lot of questions about being known as Danica's boyfriend. You kind of cringed a little bit on some of those. Do you feel like does this win‑‑ do you feel like it helps kind of your reputation or the way people view you, or does it matter?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It doesn't matter to me. We've got a great relationship, just like anybody else does, and both of our main focus is to go out and run well and win races and do what we have to do to do that. She understands that I'm going to go to the shop a lot, and to have that support and her knowing where I'm coming from is great to have. I don't mind being known as her boyfriend. She doesn't mind being known as my girlfriend. Either way, it goes either way, and we couldn't be in a better place right now.
Q. A couple weeks ago you said that you thought playoffs might be a possibility this season because of the sustained success that your team had enjoyed this year. What's it feel like to finally have that opportunity and qualify for the All‑Star Race?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Oh, yeah, the All‑Star Race; I forgot about that. Yeah, perfect. Man, it feels really good. We knew it was a possibility for both Trevor and I, if you look at the way Trevor has ran, as well, real consistent, and now that's our next objective is to have both cars in the Chase. The way we're running, you don't have to win. You can get in on points, and I think we can get the 6 in, whether it's a win or on points, and that's going to be the main focus of our shop. But for us, it'll be nice to go out and just gather as much information throughout this year and go out and contend for wins. We've still got a lot of work to do. We've contended for top 5s and top 10s for a lot of this year, and we're trying to push forward and continue to do that.
Q. And for Brian, Ricky in the last couple weeks has talked a lot about the difference this season, being able to sustain the success once the year has started. As a relative newcomer to the team, what have you found this year as being a key to the success so far?
BRIAN PATTIE: Just focus, focus one week at a time, execute, and after the checkered flag falls on a Sunday, we'll regroup on Monday and start over. Just try and not get ahead of ourselves. That's just the biggest part. Obviously we've got better people and better spots and the cars are faster. That helps tremendously.
Yeah, he drove his tail off. I don't have to question his commitment level, so that's good. It's 110 every lap, probably 10 percent too much most of the time. But you know, the year has gone good so far. We've run well at tracks that he shouldn't run well because he hates it, Martinsville being one of them. So what he likes track‑wise and what I like are two different things, and it's made it well, so hopefully we can continue.
Q. Jack, it's been a while since one of your guys have won in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. There was talk earlier this year about maybe you stepping away from the sport, and then I think that was corrected and you said that that wasn't the case. But through it all, how frustrating has it been for you, and what have you done to kind of help steer the ship and get everything turned back around?
JACK ROUSH: Well, I've had a really great run with Steve meal and with Jimmy Fennig and with Robby Reiser and Harry McMullen and Max Jones and all the great managers and technicians, mechanics and leaders that I've had around me. On their back I've enjoyed a lot of success, and I never doubted the fact that we would win more races. I just didn't know if it was going to be today.
But go to Talladega, regardless of how much speed you've got in your car, you've got to have luck going for you, and the stars line up to be able to be successful, but I was confident that Ricky would win a race this year. We've had some struggle with our pit crew getting the tires on and off the car, and that has been a challenge, and that's really the only question that I had was whether the team would be able to support Ricky in his effort to win a race and Brian and all of his detail and his preparation. But I knew that we had the right mix of people in the right places this year, and if we'd just‑‑ if it would gel and we'd have a little bit of good fortune that we would win races, and we'll win a race with Trevor before the year is over unless I miss my guess. But hopefully we can get ourselves ready for this last 10 races to make a championship run. That's what I'm thinking.
Q. Ricky, you've gone from competing and winning in the Ohio Speedweeks to now competing and winning in the Cup Series. How important is it to you for drivers, NASCAR drivers, to keep in touch with the grass‑roots?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It's really important. I think Kyle does the best job of anybody going back and running local short track races, whether it's dirt or asphalt. You know, right now I just started a World of Outlaws team with Joey Saldana driving, and that's a great way to give back. Larson has been doing that for quite some time now, so I'm glad to join the ranks of doing that. I think ‑‑ I enjoy going back and running some midget races and some sprint car races every now and then. I think it keeps you sharp, definitely are tough track conditions and tough to go out there and compete, but I think the fans, the drivers really support you over here when you do that.
Q. Ricky, I know you've talked about kind of the challenges since coming up to Cup a little bit, but I'm curious about when you came in with all the success and had some of the struggles and it didn't come as you had hoped, especially from Kansas on. How does one kind of sustain themselves? It's one thing over a short period, but it was kind of more of a longer period. I know you talked about the confidence, but how did you sustain yourself to some degree or what were the challenges and how were you able to pick yourselves up at times?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, honestly, I feel God is not going to put you through anything you can't make it through. I believed in all the guys that I had around me and the team that they still wanted the same thing that I wanted, and that was to get back in Victory Lane, to compete, and to know that we're here every weekend like we were in the XFINITY Series. When we were in the XFINITY Series, we showed up every week, and they knew that they were going to have to beat us to win a race, and I want that feeling here. We're not there yet, but they know we're here. We're on some of them's radar screen. We're not on all of them yet. There's teams that don't look at us throughout practice yet, but they will. You know, Richmond is one where I thought we were really good, and practice, and it paid off in the race. But I think people didn't see it coming.
Hopefully we can continue to change that trend and continue to keep on and plug away. We've got to put weekends together from here on out, just making sure that we're having good Fridays, Saturdays, and turn it into a mistake‑free race on Sunday.
Q. Ricky, was there a situation with your father on the way to Victory Lane today?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I heard. I don't know, somebody stole his golf cart last night, I think, for one thing. He was worried about that. I told him I'd get him another one. And then I'm not‑‑ I don't have the full story. I'm not sure. He got escorted to Victory Lane, though.
Q. I think what happened is he was trying to get down into Victory Lane, and he was taken into custody and paid a quick visit to the jail cell.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Oops. Honestly‑‑
RUSSELL BRANHAM: Let me just interrupt here. I'll give you the story. He was extremely excited about his son winning today, and naturally so. He was actually perched on the back straightaway up top the Alabama Gang Super Stretch in an RV, his son wins the race, he goes down, he tries to find a way to get across the track. He tried to climb the fence, found out he couldn't. He begins running down outside of the perimeter road of turn No.3 outside the venue. He wants to go through the tunnel and get in here. Our guys saw it, naturally they stopped him, asked him who he was, said would you get in the car. They placed him in the car, talked to him, they said, who are you. He said, I'm Ricky Stenhouse's father. Hold on one second, sir. Let me call the director of security. Called our security, and our security guy said, take him to Victory Lane, and that's what happened.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Well, my first ARCA win at Kentucky, somebody asked where my dad was, and I'm like, well, he's probably on the back straightaway fence. When I won at Kentucky he climbed the fence and I climbed the other side and met him at the top. Yeah, I went down the back straightaway after the race was over and looked up to see if he was there, but I didn't see him. My dad has done so much for me in my career. Everything that I've learned is from him, and you know, making sure that you have the right people around you is one of the things that he's all about, making sure that you have people that respect you, that will do anything for you, and man, he sacrificed a lot for me and my career.
Everything that I know about racing I learned from him, and I'm glad that he was able to be here in Victory Lane.
THE MODERATOR: Ricky, you were the 11th driver to collect their first win in their career here at Talladega Superspeedway but the first to lift up that brand new Vulcan Trophy in Victory Lane. Could you talk about the experience of being able to enjoy that brand new trophy?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, man, it's‑‑ I love trophies. I don't know how much it pays to win, but I like the trophy. Man, to have servicemen and women all around the racetrack here at Talladega, some fans, some doing a job, talking to some that just came back from Iraq on pit road for qualifying, it's super cool to see their support of a sport that we love and that we have as a job. You know, they have a job to do, and they do it well, and we need to support them just as much as they support us. To have those trophies is really cool.
Q. So you're in the All‑Star Race and the playoffs. What does that mean for Roush Fenway?
STEVE NEWMARK: I think it means everything for us. It's well‑documented some of the transition that we've gone through in the last few years, and I think everybody recognizes there's ebb and flow in sports, and one of the things that Jack has always said is that you don't dig out of that just by happenstance, you've got to put the effort into it, and a ton of credit goes to Brian and Ricky for what they've done with this team. Ricky has had ample opportunity to mail it in, yet he's at the shop at 6:30 a.m. working with the guys on occasion, and he has really taken that leadership mantle, he and Trevor both have stepped up, and that's really what's brought us back. So I think as I said at the beginning, this is the involved with, and I heard that sentiment across the board from a lot of the guys here, and that'll flow through to the shop when we get back tomorrow.
Q. Steve and Jack, what does this mean for the resurgence of Roush Fenway Racing in 2017 after a few disappointing years?
JACK ROUSH: Well, it gives us fresh wind in our sail. We've got over 300 victories in NASCAR. I forget what the exact number is. The number that I hold dear is 40 years of racing, drag racing, road racing and NASCAR. I've won over 450 national events, and it puts another chapter in that record, and we'll celebrate with the crew and with all the engine builders and everybody else that this is their first win. We'll celebrate the fact that they were there the day that Ricky won at Talladega in 2017.
STEVE NEWMARK: I think if you polled everyone at Roush Fenway, they still believed. They didn't feel like we went anywhere. So I know we've heard the term resurgence a lot, but I think that we always felt like we had the right personnel, the right talent in our drivers, and there was a belief that we would get back there, and so I think this is just kind of affirmation of the work that's been put into it, and we really do follow kind of the‑‑ Jack's leadership and the principles at that he's instilled in everybody, and it's been a promote from within organization, so you have a lot of people at Roush Fenway that started on the ground floor and have worked their way up and have had ups and downs, and Ricky is probably kind of the poster child of that, so I think that's why it makes it so enjoyable for everybody to be involved.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, good luck next week in Kansas.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports