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Stenhouse’s Current Job: Focus On Current Job

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 28 2012

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be in a Cup car next year but is still in a Nationwide car this year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

SPARTA, Ky. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. met the media on Thursday two days after Roush Fenway Racing announced the defending Nationwide Series champion will replace 2003 Sprint Cup champ Matt Kenseth beginning next season.

“It was a big week for us,” said Stenhouse, who received the news one week ago via a phone call. “I guess I didn’t really realize it was going to be that big when they announced it. Everybody texted me like I had won a race.

“It’s a great opportunity. You’ve just got to take advantage of each situation you’re in.”

Stenhouse will likely run a handful of Cup races later this year.

“We’ll try to finish this (Nationwide) season off on a strong note,” he said. “We want to win the 2012 Nationwide Series championship. We’ve got to stay focused on that.

“I try not to let it get too big right now. I have to stay focused and stay humble and keep going. I can’t look too far ahead. I feel good about the opportunity.”

A year ago rain during qualifying foiled Michael Waltrip’s attempt to make the starting field for the

Michael Waltrip in the driver's seat. (File photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.

The semi-retired Waltrip, a native of Owensboro, Ky., is assured of taking the green flag in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400.

Waltrip will wheel the No. 55 Toyota, which is locked into the top 35 in car owner points, in place of primary driver is Mark Martin.

Waltrip greeted the media on Thursday to unveil a unique sponsor scheme for this weekend. The Camry recognizes the University of Kentucky’s recent NCAA basketball championship.

The idea for the concept was hatched by Waltrip after he witnessed the Wildcats capture the title in April in New Orleans.

“As soon as we won the game, I got on the phone with Mr. (Ken) Butler from Aaron’s and said ‘sir, can we please race the Kentucky car in Kentucky? I think it would be a big deal,’ ” Waltrip said. “And they were kind enough to take their name off the hood, shrink it way down and put the shield on there that celebrates the 2012 national championship.”

Earlier this month, NASCAR competitors turned record laps while circling fresh-paved ovals at Michigan and Pocono.

They will go down a different path during the next three days as Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series drivers tackle the worn ribbon of asphalt at Kentucky Speedway, which is arguably the bumpiest racing surface on the circuit.

Brad Keselowski, the only competitor pulling triple duty this weekend,acknowledged that the bumps have the potential to factor into outcomes of races at the 1.5-mile oval.

“The bumps are very difficult to navigate here,” said Keselowski, the winner of last year’s Nationwide Series race at Kentucky. “It’s a race track by its very nature that is hard to be consistent to driver because it’s hard to hit the same bump twice.

“It’s hard to predict what a car is going to do on a bumpy surface. It’s very challenging and requires a more-disciplined skill set to drive.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 28 2012
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