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June 22, 2020

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Lincoln, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: Ricky, we'll go right to questions for you.

Q. Talk about the last lap. Certainly at a couple points it looked like you found a place to get to the front. May be one of the craziest finishers I've seen since 1982.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: We didn't get a great restart. Blaney and I didn't get hooked up good enough. That seemed to let the outside lane get a run. It let the 4 and the 17 out front.
But what that intended to do was let me and the 12 get hooked up and get a draft from those two cars that were out front. I pushed Blaney really hard down the back straightaway. When we went into three and four, wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go. We ended up going low. Then I thought I was done. Thought I was a sitting duck. The outside lanes were coming. The 20 had a good run.
Then they started banging fenders, slowing each other down. I just kept on the throttle, was able to get close to the nose of the 12 there coming across the line.
All in all it was a solid day for us. Our NOS Energy Drink Camaro was really fast. We lost track position, but seemed to be able to get that back pretty fast. Our car was fast. Worked well with others. I think all the blue ovals there together at the end were really tough to beat.

Q. These things are so hard to win, to be so close, what level of disappointment do you have losing by whatever it was?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it's disappointing for sure. You work all day long, playing different scenarios out in your head, how you're going to be the first one across the start/finish line. It does have a lot to do with all the other cars that are racing, who is pushing you, how they can push you, what moves they make.
A lot is in your control, a lot is circumstantial. You just got to keep putting yourself in those positions every race, especially on the speedways, to eventually get them to click off.
People that I worked with all race, if I had them behind me there at the end I would have felt a little more comfortable because we worked really well together. When you got all the Fords there lined up, it was kind of tough. I didn't feel like anybody was going to go with me.
We ended up in the bottom lane by ourselves. It ended up working out to get back to second. But definitely frustrating not to win. All in all, man, it's still a good run for our team. We carried a lot of momentum from Daytona, bringing the same racecar down here to Talladega, it still being fast. That's a positive. We got more speedway races to go.

Q. You were among those pushing Bubba's car today. What did that mean to you? The Mississippi State flag, anything over the last couple weeks made you think more about it?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it was cool to see everybody pushing bush's car there down to the front. I would say it was a Kevin and Jimmie idea that everybody jumped onboard with. Then to see all the crew members follow suit was really cool.
I think the coolest part for me was listening to the fans before the race, after the race, showing the support as well. I thought that was strong and really cool to see.
We had talked a lot about the Mississippi flag. I wore it on my belt for a long time. We did take it off. We took it off of my race suits over the past couple weeks.

Q. Someone who has had a good share of success at Talladega, describe what you thought about the new package that was run today.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I thought it was great racing. You had to work really hard to form your line and really work the side draft, pushing cars, getting cars to push you. You had to work hard for it.
I thought that was great racing. I felt like everybody kept their cars in control. We had some big saves out there. I saw I think the 12, the 11, 22, myself a couple times, get pretty sideways, but gather it back in.
The third lane I felt like with this package got hurt the most. It seemed like you could get some runs going, but it would stall out pretty quick. Seemed like the bottom and middle were the way to go. It kind of took the top lane out of it, which in turn a lot of times we run single file around the top and the race can get kind of stale.
I thought overall the package was really good. I don't think any driver is going to have any complaints about it.

Q. We're over a third of the way through your first season at JTG Dougherty. How have you been getting along with the new team and Ryan?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It's been great. I've enjoyed every minute of it from the first time we went over there, sat down with Tag and Jodi and Ernie and ate dinner. I felt welcomed. I felt like it's a family atmosphere. Also they get the job done. Any money that comes in they put right back into our race team buying parts and equipment, making sure we can perform the best that we can perform with what we got.
The Kroger family is one that I'm proud to be a part of. My mom has shopped there for 35 years so far and continues to shop there. Now having NOS Energy Drink onboard with us, it's been a good chemistry from the top down, including our partners. I've enjoyed it so far.
We've got fast racecars. We have had some mistakes that have cost us, some on my end, some on the car's end. We're in there together, trying to clean everything up, trying to make sure we put our best parts forward. We're looking forward to the rest of the year.

Q. Did you get a sense today at all of the actual fans that were in attendance?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It was nice to hear them before the race. It wasn't dead quiet like I said just a little bit ago. Chanting 'Bubba' at the start, pretty special to be able to hear that. I think those fans were glad to be here.
When Bubba took the lead, when he got to the lead, came down the front straightaway, we were only two‑wide at that point. I looked at the stands, watched all the people jump up and cheer. That was pretty cool.
Those are things that we haven't had in a long time. I know those fans got to see a great race because we battled hard all day long.

Q. You mentioned not wearing the belt buckle. Would you say that was a decision based on a learning experience or because of the realization of something other people might feel towards it?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: You never want to do anything to offend anybody on purpose. Obviously not being on purpose. It's our state flag. I've always been proud to be from Mississippi. I've always supported or wore the flag on my belt for a long time. I've never really thought of it offending anybody.
Obviously with everything that's going on in the country, with the rebel flag, learning really how it offends so many people, I don't intend to do that. That was just the way for us to make sure, myself and JTG and our partners, that we wanted to take initiative to take that off before we felt like somebody wanted us to have to. We just wanted to be proactive and make sure we got that off and didn't offend anybody going forward.

Q. We've seen the moves you were making throughout the day. When you're making those close‑call moves, how much are you weighing the risk versus reward?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: For me, you just got to put yourself in position. For the longest time we weren't sure if the rain was going to come. We wanted to get stage points. I feel like I have a style of drafting that when I get in different lanes, when I'm leading the lanes, I feel like I can pull that lane to the lead. I think it showed for the longest time the Penske cars were lined up on the bottom. Nobody could seem to get alongside of them. Myself, the 18, I think maybe the 95 or 41 was behind them.
I felt like my technique and aggressiveness on the side draft, along with Kyle Busch's aggressiveness and pushing, got us back to the lead. Ultimately ended up getting us 10 points and winning the stage.
For me, you always want to keep your track position. There were a couple times I got in the back. It was difficult to make passes when they're two‑ and three‑wide to get back to the front. You have to wait and let it chill out. For me it's always trying to get back to having good track position.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much for your time, Ricky. Have a great week. We'll see you for the doubleheader at Pocono.

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