Recovering from a mid-season points slump, defending NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr has turned up the wick as of late in his Roush Fenway Racing prepared Ford Mustang. Ricky has finished either first or second in the last four Nationwide Series races and has overcome a substantial points deficit to overtake former Richard Petty Motorsports Sprint Cup driver Elliott Sadler for the lead with 7 races left in the season.
Fresh off a second place finish at Bristol, Ricky unloaded a very fast Cargill Beef Ford Mustang in Atlanta, but it appeared that Stenhouse, Jr would finish second to Sprint Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick in the race. That was until the last lap. "The 22 [Brad Keslowski] is gonna be a great Ford teammate next year. He pushed us down that front straightaway. He had the new tires on and definitely helped us get to the win. These guys did an awesome job on pit road all weekend long. We had a great Cargill Beef Mustang and the engine was strong under the hood. Doug Yates has been working really hard on that. I just had to get down on him as tight as I could. I'm glad we could make the end of the race interesting because he killed us for the first 194 laps. He killed us, but it was cool to get him on that restart. Kevin is a great driver and it was fun to go up against him."
After the Atlanta win and another second in Richmond, Ricky brought a bus to Chicagoland Speedway. His yellow Ford Mustang was sponsored by the school bus manufacturer Blue Bird, but it flew like a rocket all weekend. RSJ drove around the 54 car with 20 to go and finished 2.4 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch. "That last restart, I felt like we would catch Kyle but thought it would take a little longer," said Stenhouse Jr in the winner's press conference. "He jumped out a little quicker in the runs before and then kind of fell off there towards the end, but we were able to catch him pretty quick and take our Mustang to victory lane."
When asked if he ever felt like he was not going to be able to repeat as the series champ, Stenhouse Jr was always confident. "Never. No. I felt like we have been one of the best cars each week and that we have been really consistent. We have been consistent when we didn't need to be too with three consecutive races of like a 26th finish. We were consistent in the wrong way those three races," added Ricky. "The last four races I think we have finished second and first, second and first. I feel like we have good momentum. But in this business and this sport anything can change at any time. You have to keep your guard up and keep not making mistakes."
Stenhouse Jr takes his momentum and points lead to the Kentucky Speedway then on to Dover International Speedway for the 27th Annual One Main Financial 200. Ricky will also pilot a Ford Fusion in the Sprint Cup race at Dover in preparation for his 2013 ride in the Best Buy #17 Fusion currently driven by Matt Kenseth.