For Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the 2013 season marks a big year of change. The 2012 Nationwide Series Champion will make the jump to the Sprint Cup Series, driving the No. 17 Ford that has been piloted by Matt Kenseth since 2000. The pressure will be there as expectations are high with this team and young driver due to the success in the Nationwide Series.
His season truly began last week in Daytona with the test as it marked his first time working with crew chief Scott Graves. While Graves is a rookie crew chief, he was a key part of the development process for Roush Fenway with the Generation 6 car so he has experience. He was also one of the lead engineers for Carl Edwards’ Nationwide Series program.
Stenhouse Jr. said the test was crucial time for him to get used to his new team.
“It is a little different getting everybody on the same page but I think this test is a perfect time for that,” he said. “Things have been going great today and yesterday and we are really looking forward to the couple of tests before the season starts to get everything lined up.”
The test went okay for Stenhouse Jr., however he says they have work to do as they are lacking in speed.
“I think us and Carl (Edwards) are about the same,” the young driver commented last Friday morning. “Greg (Biffle) seems to be pretty quick so we will go back and look at their things and look at our things and come back ready to go. I think we are anxious to get drafting this afternoon most of all.”
The Friday afternoon session presented some solid drafting, showcasing that we’re headed towards the old style of pack racing rather than tandem racing. Stenhouse predicted the car would be loose in the draft due to the air – and he was correct as Biffle spun after getting loose. A 10 car pile-up happened later on in the session as a result of contact between Marcos Ambrose and Dale Earnhardt Jr., though Stenhouse Jr. managed to escape the wreck.
While everybody is talking about the new car, Stenhouse Jr. says he can’t judge much yet due to the lack of testing he has done.
“I haven’t really been able to test it on a track where it drives a ton different yet,” he said. “Maybe Charlotte next week I think we will be able to tell a lot more. For me it drives fine right now.”
The test at Charlotte will be a true gauge for teams on their 1.5 mile program and considering half the schedule is cookie cutter tracks, it is where the bulk of a season is based off of.
Moving forward, it’ll be all about going out to win as Stenhouse Jr. says that’s the only way he can set his goals up.
“I think that is how you achieve your best results,” he said. “You go out there and shoot for the best. That is what we are going to do and see how we start the season off and see where we end up.”
To have a shot at beating Danica Patrick for Rookie of the Year, Stenhouse knows he has to be consistent and not make big mistakes.
“You have to take what the car and track will give you at that time and go on,” he said. “I think looking back over the last couple of years we really put ourselves in a hole when we tried to get too much. So this year I think we have to stick to our plan and be smooth and be consistent.”