HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Transcript from the press conference from Homestead-Miami Speedway after the Ford 300 featuring NASCAR Nationwide Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse Jr.:
THE MODERATOR: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., tonight he drove the No. 6 CitiFinancial Ford, and he drove it to a fourth place finish. Just a terrific showing. Lot of courage and fortitude out there tonight by you. Just a great season that you've capped off. Talk about it?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: It's been a rough season, but you know, this is one my crew chief Mike Kelley had circled on his calendar that we were going to win when we got things turned around.
We've turned the season around. It was a struggle, that's for sure. But I think it makes it that much more special to finally come away with the win and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. It's a huge honor for myself and our team and Jack Roush. I don't think he's ever lost it still since he's run, so it's cool to continue that.
Out there in the race, we didn't qualify as well as we wanted to. We were making you up track position. We didn't pit the one time to save our tires for the end; and if we could have probably got one more caution there late, I think it would have paid off for us and the 22. We just didn't get that.
But pretty solid run for us Top 5, and that's what we need to carry the momentum into the off-season.
Q. Considering your age and your first full season, it was an up-and-down season, lot of unknowns. What are you going to take away from this year? What have you learned that's going to make you a better driver for next year?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: Thank you. There's a lot that we learned this year. It's cool that I wasn't going through it by myself, you know, the whole team was behind me, and that helped a tremendous amount to have a team. To have a team that's behind you and a crew chief that really believes in you and a spotter that believes in you, that's key. I know that from here on out, if I don't feel like the crew chief or the team or the spotter believe in me, I've got to get those guys to do that. Because that was a huge boost for us.
Learned a lot of patience this year that I definitely did not have coming into this season. Figured out how to practice these race cars so they're better in the race, not just good in practice. You know, there is a lot of things that I learned that I can do with the stock car that I didn't know at the beginning of the season. Whether it's easing into the throttle, getting into it hard, to balance the race car out there. Coming into the season I had no idea about that.
Felt like toward the end of the season we also gained some respect from some of the guys that's been in the series for a long time. It's cool to finish tonight fourth and have three champions in front of us. So that was pretty cool.
Q. Can you quantify the intensity not only of competing in this series, but the competition within your own team at Roush Fenway Racing, which you've kind of put yourself a little bit above the board there?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: Yes, sir. This is the best of the best. You know, when you have 13 Cup drivers coming on down and running with us, I feel like it makes us that much better. I like racing with those guys. I learned a lot from them. I can go to them and ask questions.
This series is tough. NASCAR's got the best drivers in the world, and to be a part of it, I'm really thankful for. But as far as the battle within the team, it's definitely there. I feel like it's probably there at any big team, not just Roush Fenway Racing.
But right now I feel really good going into the off-season. Hopefully we can secure some sponsorship to do this thing full-time again.
Q. Just wondering, you had such a tough start to the year. What was the turning point for you after all those wrecks early where you just went through a race and felt, okay, I can really do this? Kind of recaptured your confidence and started to build on stuff? Heading into the off-season in terms of winning this award, I know you mentioned it a little bit, but how do you feel it will help your sponsorship search and selling yourself at Roush for all the young drivers he has for driver development?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: It definitely was a tough start. I feel like it turned around at Loudon. The finish doesn't show it at Loudon, but we had a really good race car. Ran up in the Top 10. I felt like we were fast enough to run a Top 5 there. The following week at Daytona, to come home third in the Mustang, that was kind of the turning point, I feel like in the season. It's just kind of where everything came together and clicked.
I was messing with the speed guys and I told them they helped turn our season around because it was at Daytona where it really turned around. We were thankful for them to come on board.
But I think that ending the season strong, winning the Raybestos Rookie of the Year will help secure sponsorship. But also looking back at Daytona and looking back at Richmond and the C.O.T., the Mustang races, the new cars, we seem to run really strong with those and to look forward to next year running them every single weekend. I think that we can kind of have that in our corner that we ran well in those also.
Q. Couple years ago ran ARCA full-time, kind of went through the year and didn't have too many starts, and then you have this season. Is there any concern now that you're looking at an uncertain 2011 that being out of the seat might have an impact on the improvement you've shown this year?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: I think that's what Jack Roush is really good at. I think he sees that he likes to promote within the company, and keep his young drivers running good. At some point get their attention like he had to with us this year.
But I feel like Jack is really positive with us, especially the way the season's ended. I figure as dedicated as he is, he'll probably find a way for us to run. That's what I've got to hope for.
He's been a great owner to run for, and I feel like he's going to do the best he could. Being out of the seat would hurt us, I feel like, with the improvements that we've made.
But overall, I feel like we've learned a lot this year and still can move on and work on this for next year.
THE MODERATOR: One note about Ricky's accomplishment this year, he overcame a 35-point deficit. At one time he was 35 points behind in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, and that is the largest deficit ever overcome by a driver to win this particular award. That includes all three NASCAR national series. Other questions?
Q. Tell us about the cowboy boots?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: Yeah, a while back we weren't leading the points at that time. The guys were sitting in the lounge, and I wear my boots every weekend. So we were sitting there and saying, hey, if you're leading Rookie of the Year points coming into Homestead, we'll all wear cowboy boots on Saturday.
So a few of them had to go buy some, and their feet were hurting all day because it was the first time they wore them. They didn't realize you had to kind of work them in.
They learned a little bit today about wearing boots, and I'm just glad that the team's that good and that behind me to be able to do that and have a good time at Roush Fenway Racing.
Q. Can you just compare this to your USAC rookie titles and how this compared to your competition in that series?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR: I don't think it really compares too much. I think this is definitely the biggest accomplishment that I've ever gotten. You know, USAC we won Rookie of the Year, but that's running dirt Sprint Cars, dirt Midgets. That's where I'd come from.
This is all new to me, and still we've got a couple years under our belt, but still not that many races. To be able to do this with the competition in the Raybestos Rookie Race this year, it was pretty stout.
Had two guys that had definitely run full-time in stock cars for a while, and knew we had a challenge. Felt like this was probably the toughest thing that I've ever done and just glad that we could accomplish it. Hopefully build on this.
Like I said, I learned a lot and I'm glad. I want this year to keep going, but I'm glad it's over.
So hopefully next year we can start out on the right foot and not have to talk about everything that happened at the beginning of the season.