Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said he was “pretty blindsided” this week when Roush Fenway Racing informed him he wasn’t going to return to the organization next season.
“Obviously, eight races left is pretty late in the game,” said Stenhouse. “Halfway through the season would have been a little nicer to be able to go look for something else to do, but it’s their business, and I got to go with it.
“No hard feelings. I’ve been angry at times, but for the most part I look back on all it and super thankful.”
Stenhouse appeared to get choked up when addressing his release from the team. He has driven for Roush Fenway Racing since 2013 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, where he’s won Rookie of the Year and two races. All of Stenhouse’s 108 starts in the Xfinity Series, eight wins and back-to-back championships in 2011-12 were also with Roush.
“It was unfortunate for sure; definitely tough timing for myself and my group to try and find another option,” he said. “But all in all, I got to look back on the 11 years I had with Jack and winning races and championships, and getting my first Cup win, and being competitive. Not as consistent as what we wanted. But the end of it all I’m very thankful that Jack took a chance on a dirt racer from Mississippi to come drive his car. So, it was fun.
“Little emotional with the relationship Jack and I have – only team I’ve ever been at. Look forward to see what’s next. Like I said, there’s a lot of work to do on that, but all in all, I’m definitely looking forward to these last eight with the great partners we have, everybody on this 17 team.”
Roush Fenway announced that it has signed Chris Buescher on Wednesday afternoon after informing Stenhouse that morning. Stenhouse said he received a phone call on Tuesday night to visit the shop at 11 a.m. the next morning, which he thought nothing of. At 7:30 a.m. the following day, as he was having coffee and getting ready to go work out, Stenhouse’s agent called and said he had also been summoned to the shop, and that’s when Stenhouse realized it probably wasn’t good news.
“That’s part of it,” said Stenhouse, who admitted he didn’t ask many questions but listened to what had to be said and then left the campus. “I know people get fired every day from their jobs, and I can’t feel sorry for myself. I got to make sure we look forward to these eight races and what can we land to showcase what I got for 2020.”
Stenhouse did speak with team owner Jack Roush Thursday night, which he described as a “good conversation”, but one he had purposely waited to have.
“Having it Wednesday probably wouldn’t have been a good idea,” he said. “Jack and I, we’ve had some knockout drag-outs in our days, in the 11 years we’ve had together. It was a good conversation. I thanked him for all the good times and fun times that we’ve had.”
“Over the past two days I’d say I went angry, sad, optimistic. Sometimes change is good. Like they said, it just didn’t work; it hadn’t been working over the last couple of years. We’ve had speed, we just haven’t had consistent finishes, so I think that’s what sucks for myself. I feel like we’ve had plenty of speed to get the job done, it’s just a lot of things came down to us not getting those results.
“Ultimately that’s what we’re here for is results, and they weren’t coming.”
While teammate Ryan Newman qualified for the playoffs, Stenhouse has had a very inconsistent season with just two top-10 finishes. He is 23rd in points. But whether this year or more broadly across his career, Stenhouse acknowledged there have been times when the issues were either caused by him or outside his control.
“I feel like I can still get the job done,” said Stenhouse. “I look back at my Nationwide Series career, and how well we did there against a lot of Cup drivers that were in the field each and every week – they’re the ones winning championships and races over here.
“My Cup career hasn’t been great, but I still think you look at other people’s Cup careers and it took a while for them to get going. I look at that as an opportunity to still turn my Cup Series career around.”
Stenhouse said he has not yet talked to other teams about his future, and while remaining in the NASCAR Cup Series is always a driver’s preference he is also open to other options.