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CHEVY NCS AT TALLADEGA I: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Press Conference Transcript

NASCAR CUP SERIES
TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
GEICO 500
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
APRIL 23, 2021

RICKY STENHOUSE, JR., NO. 47 NOS ENERGY DRINK CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Teleconference Transcript:

TALK ABOUT GOING TO TALLADEGA AND WHAT YOUR APPROACH WILL BE
“For us, it’s just to go out and try to get a win and get some Stage points. We came up short at Daytona, just the way things played out, where we were in the pack coming down the stretch at some of those Stages, we didn’t get the Stage points that we got last year and it kind of put us behind a little bit. But I feel like we’ve been making up for that with the end results, the finishing results. So, we’d like to get some more Stage points. We know our NOS Energy Drink Camaro is going to be really fast. It always is. The guys have been massaging on it and working on it hard. When we’ve got it ready to go, we’ve just got to be one spot better than what we were at this race last year. All in all, it’s just really about trying to get to the checkered flag and making sure that we have a chance for the win.”

CONCERNING WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS, DO YOU FEEL LIKE IF IT GETS DICEY, DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO GET STAGE POINTS RATHER THAN MAYBE BACKING OUT, WHICH MIGHT BE THE SAFER PLAY?
“I don’t know. I just kind of always go off the feel. I don’t really always have a set full game plan. I feel like when you have those game plans and you try to stick to it, especially at speedways, it can be a detriment to the decisions you make on the race track. So, I’m more of a feel guy. One that goes out to the race track and that’s me, my spotter, and that’s also (crew chief) Brian Pattie watching from the pit box. I feel like we do a really good job of just kind of watching what’s going on. So, I’m not sitting here and saying like hey, we have to go get Stage points. Just like at Daytona, if the opportunity arises, then we’ll go get them. If I feel like things are getting too dicey and something could happen and we won’t make it to the end of the race, then I’ll back out. It’s just the way we have always done our speedway racing.”

WHAT IS THE OVERALL VIBE OF THE TEAM, CONSIDERING RIGHT NOW YOU’RE IN THE PLAYOFF MIX COMPARED TO A YEAR AGO WHEN AT THIS TIME, YOU REALLY WEREN’T?
“It’s definitely a different feeling and you’re always looking to not make mistakes and continue the run that we’ve been on. Last week at Richmond, with the caution the way it came out and a pit road penalty, it kind of set us back a little bit. But we were still able to manage a decent finish. We didn’t finish where I feel like we normally run there at Richmond. But, you know, the overall confidence in the team is really high. We’re doing what we set out to do this year and that’s to be consistent, get those Top 15 finishes, try to average a 14th place or better finish, and just see where things shake out. It’s nice to be in the mix. It’s nice to be on a good, consistent run; and also check the goals off that we’ve been trying to do since the off-season. And it’s been fun to accomplish. We’ve got to keep it up. We’ve got to keep doing it. There are a lot of races left until the cutoff, so yeah, there are a lot of winners, but you never know how it’s going to shake out. So, we’re just going to keep plugging away.”

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF WEEKS UNTIL THE DARLINGTON RACE, AND IT’S GOING TO BE ON MOTHER’S DAY. WITH THAT IN MIND, WHAT ARE YOUR BEST MEMORIES OF YOUR MOTHER HAVING A ROLE IN YOUR RACING CAREER?
“My mom, she’s always been super supportive of my dad racing when he first started racing, making sure he’s fed while working in his carport back in the day when they first started dating. She’s continued that trend all the way through with me racing and us working in the garage. She’s always supporting us and always going to the race track and she’s coming to Talladega this weekend so I’m pretty excited about that. So yeah, I think most drivers always know that they worked really hard with their dad to get to the point that they’re at. But if it wasn’t for our moms supporting us on the back side, I don’t think any of us would make it here either.”

YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS AT TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA. WHAT IS IT ABOUT SUPERSPEEDWAYS THAT WORK SO WELL FOR YOU AND YOUR CAR?
“Well, I think it definitely evens the playing field out a little bit more than maybe some of the race tracks to when it comes to having the most resources and having the all-out fastest car. Obviously, the draft takes care of a lot of things. But you still need a fast race car. When we won our first race here at Talladega, we sat on the pole by two-tenths. It’s nice to be able to have a car that fast. Since being paired-up with Brian Pattie, I feel like he takes a lot of effort and pays a lot of attention to detail when it comes to the speedway racing, and I feel like that’s made me a better speedway racer. And then just learning over the years how the draft works, what you can do to manipulate other drivers, and other cars, to give yourself an advantage. And then just trying to work and put yourself in the right positions and get yourself out of positions when you feel like things aren’t going good. So, it’s just been something that over time. I feel like that’s why we tend to have some good runs here. Once you get a win at a speedway race, and we got back-to-back wins, I feel like that gives you a little bit more confidence in the decisions that you’re making on the race track.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE JTG DAUGHERTY RACING HAS MADE THE BIGGEST IMPROVEMENTS FROM LAST YEAR?
“I think it’s just paying attention to detail. For me, as a driver, not trying to do more than what the car is capable of, less mistakes, better pit roads; we’ve had really good pit stops all year and that’s always beneficial when we have cars that are running in the Top 15 and we can come down pit road and gain a spot or two or maintain. That was something we struggled with last year when we were fast. I felt like we would come in pit road and we could leave five or six spots behind and then you’re trying to make that up all the time. That’s an area I think is better. We set-up this off-season to come into 2021 and make less mistakes, be consistent, and try not to do anything spectacular and don’t do anything that is really bad. And I think that’s where our heads are at and I feel like we’re all a little bit more focused each week. The guys working on the car, me in the car making the decisions behind the wheel have been a lot better and probably some of the best of my career as far as the decisions I’ve made. I’m looking forward to building on that and continuing to get better. Also at the same time, we’re trying to make our cars faster. Our Kroger team has worked really hard in the off-season as well as making some of the race tracks, now that we have a notebook, being at the team for a year, we can look back at those races where we struggled last year and make different decisions and different set-up decisions going in that can benefit us. And I think you’re seeing some of that as well.”

HOW DOES THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE AFFECT SOMEONE LIKE YOU WHEN YOU’RE STARTING AND FINISHING AN AVERAGE OF 13TH? DO THE RICH JUST KEEP GETTING RICHER UNDER THIS QUALIFYING METHOD?
“Yes and no. I do feel last year, when we re-started, and I finished 40th and made not even a lap; and then all of a sudden we’re starting in the back every week. It was definitely difficult to get to the front or to get to where we felt like we should be running. But it’s long races. The No. 48 (Alex Bowman) went to the back the same time I did. Granted, he was a lap ahead of us. But he went to the back for a pit road penalty and drove up and won the race. I think if you have a fast race car you’re going to get to where you should run no matter where you start. I definitely would like to qualify. I have fun qualifying. It’s a bummer that we can’t. But I think if you have your car where you want it to be and need it to be; yeah, the first Stage might not go as planned or get the Stage points you’re looking for, but you normally get your track position and kind of keep it throughout the race. So, like you said, it’s the same for everybody. And it can make the first Stage or two difficult. But with competition cautions, you’re not really worried about going a lap down. So, if you drive up through the field and come down pit road during the competition caution and gain some spots, and you’re right there where you should be running.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE NUMBER OF FRIENDS YOU HAVE ON THE RACE TRACK AND HOW THAT’S CHANGED OVER THE YEARS OR HOW THAT MATTERS NOW, INCLUDING THE FRIENDS YOU INHERIT VIA YOUR MANUFACTURER AND THOSE YOU FEEL YOU’VE MADE OR DON’T HAVE?
“Yeah, I think everybody sits here and talks about the friends that they have and your teammates going to work in the draft and obviously being at Talladega is why you bring that up. So, when you get out on the race track, you really don’t see a whole lot of like big time help from people. Everybody still makes the decisions based off what’s going to benefit them in the end. And I’m okay with racing like that. I feel like that’s one thing that has helped us be in contention for wins is making decisions throughout the race that are going to benefit your team and your partners. And you can’t keep making decisions throughout the race based on the people you’re drafting with and just lose track position. You have to keep your track position, no matter what, throughout the race to have a shot at winning States and getting Stage points and winning the race in the end. Ryan Preece and I talked about it this week. And I’m like dude, just do what benefits you and your team because I feel like we get too caught up in like hey, how’s this going to affect the guys I’m drafting with? If you watch the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) yeah, he has teammates out there; but he does, and makes moves constantly, that benefit him and his team. I feel like that’s why he’s won so many Daytona 500’s and that’s why he’s in mix at the end of these races. I feel like to the media maybe he says hey, I’ve got my manufacturer teammates and that’s what we’re going to work with; but when it comes down to it and you watch the races, I feel like everybody is out there for himself.”

WE TOOK A FAN VOTE ON THE AIR LAST NIGHT ABOUT WHO THEY THOUGHT HAS THE MOST FRIENDS AND WHO HAS THE LEAST NUMBER OF FRIENDS AT A PLACE LIKE TALLADEGA. DENNY HAMLIN SAID HE HAS A LOT OF FRIENDS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS SPONSOR. HE HAS A LOT OF FRIENDS IN THE FIELD THAT WILL WORK WITH HIM OR THAT HE’S WORKED WITH. SO, YOU ALMOST GOT THE MOST VOTES FOR BEING MAYBE THE ONE WHO MIGHT HAVE THE LEAST NUMBER OF FRIENDS OVER THE YEARS. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THAT?
“Well, that’s the fan’s opinion; they don’t really know what’s going on exactly, in our race cars; or the conversations that are had before a superspeedway race. I feel like I’ve got plenty of friends when I need to go out there and draft. But like I said, if you watch those people that yeah, they have friends and there are a lot of people that follow Denny when he makes moves. There are people that follow (Joey) Logano and (Brad) Keselowski because their cars are fast, and they know how to stay up front and they know what they’re doing. The more races, overtime, where I’ve run well and won and been in contention on superspeedways, you just get more people that go with you. And when you have a fast car that can lead a line to the front and you show that, more people go with you. So yeah, that’s the fan’s perspective which, everybody has their opinion, and they have a right to have their opinion whether they think I have friends out there or not. But I’m very confident when I come to Talladega and Daytona that we can get the job done.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FROM A DRIVER’S PERSPECTIVE TO DRIVE ON SUCH A WIDE RANGE OF RACE TRACKS IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME?
“It’s something that we’re used to. I think the NASCAR schedule is very diverse. We go to so many different race tracks and we’ve added a couple of new ones this year. You could throw in concrete and dirt and asphalt, new asphalt, worn-out asphalt, smooth tracks and rough tracks. We run on all different sorts of race tracks and I think that’s what is fun about our schedule and about our sport. Every week is different. Some notes apply. You could go from one 1.5-mile to another, and your set-ups are totally different. I think that’s what’s cool about this sport and of NASCAR. All the tracks we go to are different and that makes drivers and teams stay on their toes to make sure that they’re ready.”

WHEN IT COMES TO TALLADEGA AND WORKING WITH TEAMMATES, AT WHAT POINT DURING THE RACE DO YOU THINK OKAY, IT’S EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF AND I’M READY TO GO FOR THE WIN REGARDLESS OF YOUR TEAMMATES AND THE GUYS YOU’RE WORKING WITH?
“You stay constant throughout the race with those around you that you’re comfortable with, drafting. But you can’t ever really count on anybody to go with you or to like the decisions that you make to benefit your team. Throughout the whole race you have to make decisions based on what’s going to give you the track position. Sometimes that’s changing lanes where there’s only one hole to be filled and maybe the people that you’re drafting with behind you don’t have a hole to get in. But that’s something where you weigh your options of do I stay in the Top 10 or do I stay out here in the outside lane and draft with them and fall back to 20th? Those are things that you contemplate and that you calculate throughout the race. I think everybody has noticed, I would say over the last three or four years, track position means a lot. You can’t just run up through the field like you used to be able to. And it’s difficult to get that track position to break into that Top 10. There are so many games being played on pit road of when to take tires and when not to, just based off of track position. The whole race you’re probably making decisions based off what’s going to be best for you.”

SO FAR THIS YEAR, WE’VE BEEN TO RESTRICTOR PLATE, SHORT TRACKS, INTERMEDIATE, AND ROAD COURSE TRACKS. WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU AND JTG DAUGHERTY NEED TO WORK ON TO BE STRONGER?
“That’s a great question. I think the road courses are something that are not my strong suit. But, JTG has probably helped my road course racing. Our cars are a little bit better than what I’ve run on some of the road courses, and so that’s helped me out. I think our short track program needs to get better. We went to Martinsville and we tried a totally different set-up and we struggled. At Richmond, we got really good at the end of the race, but we didn’t start out as good as what we needed to. So, I would say short tracks are where we need to pick-up some of our stuff and work on to get some better finishes and have fast race cars. But all in all, I’m really happy with the consistency that we have. We’re still just working on every race track and making sure that we’re better.”

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THE DOUBLE YELLOW LINE RULE AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT MAYBE CHANGE IN SOME CAPACITY?
“I don’t know. I really struggle with the double yellow line rule. I’ve been bitten by it a couple of times, actually. And I feel like it’s happened to me two or three times actually, that I’ve gotten penalized for going below the double yellow line and advancing my position. There are so many instances where, in all of my cases, I feel like if I would have stood my ground and not gone below the double yellow line, whoever was blocking me was going to crash. And so, to avoid the crash, I went below the double yellow line and still, I guess, advanced my position. So, any time that happens, I just automatically now have to give it back because we’ve been bitten by it too many times. They say it’s a judgement call. I’m not sure. I don’t know if there’s a certain way they judge it, because I’ve been bitten by it so many times. It’s in place and you can use it to your advantage. I haven’t really seen them penalize people for blocking people below the yellow line. I’ve only been on the other receiving end of being blocked and then getting penalized for going below it. I don’t really know what else there is to do with the double yellow line as far as rules go. It’s either there or it’s opened up; one of the two. And the way we all drive right now, if you opened it up, I think you would have people entering on the apron getting into the corner and I don’t know if that would be good or not.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.

About Chevrolet
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, available in 75 countries with nearly 4 million cars and trucks sold in 2019. Chevrolet models include electric and fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found www.chevrolet.com.



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