Straight out of Motown, Ricky Stenhouse and Roush Racing refuse to lose as they look out the race shop doors and towards Michigan International Speedway. The results have been slow in coming for the veteran driver, but a sense of optimism and hope remain; the outfit confident they’ll motor into the NASCAR playoffs later this summer.
Q: What do you think about the NASCAR-mandated 2019 aerodynamic and horsepower specifics applied to the cars? Helped? Hurt?
RICKY STENHOUSE: It’s been working good for us and the team. I feel like with the high downforce, lower horsepower we’ve been pretty competitive on a lot of those race tracks. There are still some race tracks that we struggled at with the package; for instance, we struggled at Pocono last week. Having said that, I think we’ll pretty strong here at Michigan with the package.
Q: Your results thus far: You placed sixth at Las Vegas last March, but it took you 10 more races to finish in the top 10 once again. You ran fifth at Charlotte a fortnight ago. Encouraging?
RS: Yeah, I mean if you look at our season, we’re just not near as consistent as we need to be. We were consistent at the beginning of the year and getting decent finishes, and we were putting ourselves in a good position to be in the points, but then we slipped a little bit. We kind of got back on track again, just with the speed in the car, and we started running more up front. We carried that over to Charlotte, but then we were out last weekend at Pocono and blew a right front tire. Ultimately, that cost us a lot of points. All in all, it’s been an up and down season, but we’re looking to take that speed and bring it to the race track every weekend.
Q: Be it chasing it on race weekends or trying to get the entire team to communicate better, what does the No. 17 team need to do come race day?
RS: Yes, I think for us, we actually need to continue to work in the shop. I feel like as a team we tend to get our car better and better throughout the race, so that’s a good thing to have. For us, as a team, just making sure we have our car set-up downforce-wise and having our cars closer to the race track is very positive.
Q: As far as your driving, what’s your take on 2019? Are you okay with how you are doing behind the wheel?
RS: Oh yeah, I’ve been aggressive and we’ve had some issues with tires and with me speeding and costing us a spots on pit road. There are definitely things to clean up, but I definitely like where I am at, for sure.
Q: While Roush Fenway Racing gives you guys absolutely everything they have, I just get the sense that you guys are fighting for your lives out there.
RS: Oh, no doubt. I think everybody in the garage kind of feels that way. You have a couple teams out there who are on top of their game every weekend. We’ve made progress and I feel like we’ve brought more speed to the race track this year. Still, everything is not even close to where we want it. We want to continue to work hard and like you said, everybody is fighting out there.
Q: We’re basically at the halfway point of the season. How are you looking at the second half of the season, and more importantly, the playoffs?
RS: Yeah, for us, we’ve been a position to be in the playoffs and we’ve just not been able to get there. I think the way these races are playing out, you can gain and lose a lot of points in just one race. With Kansas (P11) and Charlotte (P5), we gained a lot and put ourselves right there and within striking distance. You know, we’re going to have to have a couple of good months in the summer to make sure we stay consistent and get those points that we need. Or if not, get a win. I do feel like we can make the playoffs.