Stenhouse Strikes First For Cup’s High-Pro Couple

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, May 12 2017

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick and friends made it to Victory Lane at Talladega last weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

It took Danica Patrick seven years and 225 races to get to Victory Lane at a NASCAR event. She made that VL appearance last weekend at Talladega but, unfortunately for the popular 35-year-old driver, she made it to merely to congratulate her boyfriend.

Once there, Patrick and race-winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. shared a kiss, indulged in some hugs and displayed absolutely perfect teeth as they smiled for the cameras. What they didn’t do then or any time since then was joke about each other’s meager racing fortunes.

“We absolutely never mess with each other when it comes to that stuff,” Patrick said Friday at Kansas Speedway, site of this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. “I think it is obviously because it means so much to us that it is a pretty crappy thing to do. Would you mess with your wife or girlfriend? I mean when it comes to golf or something I will totally mess with him but when it comes to something like this, no. We don’t talk about that at all.”

The victory was Stenhouse’s first in Cup and it came on his 158th try.

Stenhouse, too, waved off the amateurishly awkward question about bragging rights over his girl friend.

“I mean,” he said, we are like every other driver. Everybody wants to win. I didn’t have bragging rights with anybody else that hasn’t won either. We just go out and try to win.”

The trying has not amounted to much for Stenhouse but it has not really amounted to much for any driver at Roush Fenway the last several years.

The last driver to win a Cup race in a RFR Ford was now-retired Carl Edwards did it on the Sonoma road course in 2014. Since then, there had been only 14 top-five finishes for the once powerful Roush team.

Things have gotten so dour around RFR that earlier this year, rumors began to circulate that team owner Jack Roush might be ready to step away from the sport.

The kibosh have pretty much been put on those rumors.

The Roush Fords have shown life this year. Stenhouse has three top-fives and five top-10s in the 10 races in 2017 and teammate Trevor Bayne has a top-10 and sits 16th in points.

Then came Sunday at Talladega where Stenhouse Jr. may have put considerably more ki and a bunch more bosh on any lingering rumors about Roush.

“It,” Roush said of the win, “gives us fresh wind in our sail.

“I never doubted the fact that we would win more races.”

The victory and improved performance even had Roush using the phrase “make a championship run”.

Stenhouse didn’t use that term on Friday but he did talk about the improvement in his team.

“It is good,” Stenhouse said of  I was feeling really good about our season before the win. That win just put us over the top of how we feel but we know that we still have a job to do and that is to continue to make this organization better and our cars better and not make mistakes. We know where we need to get better.”

Almost everywhere.

“The short tracks have been really good to us this year and we feel really good there,” Stenhouse sadi. “The speedways, we showed last week we had a lot of speed in qualifying and the race. We know we need to get better on the fast, smooth tracks like Las Vegas, Texas and here. We had a good practice session and didn’t really worry too much about qualifying, just trying to build a notebook for the next time we come back. I think for us we are feeling really good with our Go Bowling Ford this weekend.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, May 12 2017
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