CHEVROLET NCS AT DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Media Availability Quotes

The purse this year for the Daytona 500 is a record. How transformative can that be to you and your race team?

“Yeah it’s definitely beneficial for both. Monday aside, we’re here to get into Victory Lane and get the trophy and all the accolades that go with it. On the money side, it takes a lot of money to make this sport go round and this race team. My wife and I are redoing our bathroom, our bedroom and now the nursery. So it would go a long way. It’s kind of already spent! I hope we win.”

After winning this race last year, what were the emotions like coming back through the tunnel? Does that win take away pressure or does it add to it?

“It’s really cool coming back to defend. Not many people get the opportunity to come back here as the defending champion of the Daytona 500. It’s something that I definitely recognize and definitely appreciate and look forward to that challenge of defending it. On the other hand it probably takes a little pressure off. We all put so much pressure on this race from the time we start. I ran my first Daytona 500 in 2012 and had been trying ever since then. Once you finally get it, I feel like you’re a bit more relaxed on the racetrack. You’ve already got one accomplished. Over time, it does seem like it makes it easier… not just the Daytona 500 but if you look at other races in other motorsports… for me the Chili Bowl Nationals, the Knoxville Nationals, the Kings Royal… it seems like once somebody wins that once, it seems like it is a trickle effect and you’re able to win it multiple times. I’m hoping we can make that happen this weekend.”

With your history in the race, what does this Daytona 500 mean to you?

“It’s our biggest race of the year. I’ve started this race every year since 2012 and as a full-time Cup Series driver since 2013. You want to kick your season off on the right foot. I’ve had really good runs, and even if you don’t win there are ways to kick off your season really strong down here. Winning last year changed our whole outlook of our season and our perspective. Then just the race itself, last year being the 65th running of the Daytona 500 and looking at the list of names that have won this race, and then talking to past champions that never won this race who would trade a championship for a Daytona 500. That kind of puts in perspective of how big this race is. Trying to win it is very difficult. It means a lot and it’s meant a lot to my career in the last year, and I look forward to hopefully adding to that.”

Going into 2024, what has changed in your mindset compared to when you stepped into this building a year ago?

“A lot has changed. 2022, there were a lot of issues; speed being one of them throughout the 2022 season. Coming into 2023 and Media Day at the 500, I was pretty upbeat and pretty positive and liked the direction of our program. It was mine and (crew chief) Mike (Kelley)’s first race back together and first season back together in a long time. So I felt really strong about that. But you don’t ever really know until you get out on the racetrack and see those changes. We made a lot of changes that offseason to our racecars and felt we were going to be better. We set out goals to start the season last year, and we accomplished all those. We set more goals this offseason. It’s definitely coming back as a champion, and this Media Day is totally different. I felt really strong about where our race team is. We made big strides from 2022 to ’23; it’s going to be tough to make those big strides again but it’s all about taking steps forward, and we’re prepared to do that.”

You mentioned new goals for this year. Can you elaborate on those?

“Our sport, to make the playoffs, is all about points. Obviously wins are wins and lock you right in. We have an idea of how many points we’d need per race and what we need to average over the first 26 races to make the playoffs. Those are the goals that we are setting. Last year we set a goal, and we accomplished that. Even without our win, we felt that if we did X amount of points per race, we’ll be in the playoffs, and we were able to accomplish that. This year we set a different goal of more points than we did last year per race, and that’s what we are looking at.”

If you had to sell yourself to someone who is picking guys to make the playoffs, what would you say the strong points are for the season looking ahead?

“Luckily I don’t really care if they pick us or not. In all honesty, I just feel like we are making strides in the right direction. In ’22, we were the 32nd-placed car at Gateway. We really focused on those types of tracks, and we went back there last year and ran in the top-six to top-seven the whole race but got crashed there late at the end. So we picked a few races this offseason to really focus on. I feel like we had enough speed at a lot of races last year to get the job done that we needed to do to make the playoffs. Some mistakes on the team side and my side of just not being clean enough throughout the race, whether it be pit road, speeding, restarts, you name it. Especially toward the end of the season. I feel like at the end of the season we had better speed than where we finished. I think I’d rather surprise people and bust their playoff bracket that they made today.”


“Obviously the speedways are where I always feel comfortable. There will be some mile-and-a-half tracks that I think we’ll perform better on and we’ve always performed decently on. Bristol… I want to win Bristol so bad. We get two shots at the concrete now this year. That’s one that I definitely have circled. The way these races are, any of us can win at any given moment. These cars are getting closer. If you look throughout the qualifying sessions last year, the field just kept getting tighter. It was kind of frustrating for us in some aspects because we would close the gap to the leader but would stay in the same position. That’s just everyone getting tighter and tighter. Give any of us some track position, and we have a shot at winning. It’ll be about executing and coming up with the right gameplan throughout the race.”

What are you curious to see tomorrow in the Duels?

“I’m curious to see if I speed on pit road because I think I’ve sped on pit road the last three years in the Duel. We had our last meeting yesterday, and they all looked at me. For a lot of people, I think you saw the 48 last year was super aggressive in their qualifying package and qualified on the pole but was unable to really race it. For us, we were able to race but you only have half the field. It’s tough to get double-file. It’s more about executing on and off pit road with your groups of people and your manufacturers. So I think it’s a really good practice session for the 500 in that aspect. Knowing that normally you get one other drafting session from practice that you’ll have maybe one big drafting session and then all of a sudden you’ll have just five or six cars. For me it’s a good opportunity to get back in the groove of speedway racing and figure out what your car is doing. I’m assuming that everyone else has made changes as well to qualify better. So I’m interested to see how those changes affect our racecar in the draft and what changes we’re going to need for the 500. We know where we were last year in the Duels and what changes we made to go into the 500. Then we know what we did for qualifying this year. That’s one of your best scenarios to figure out how your car is going to be Sunday.”

What is the challenge of remaining a playoff team as a single-car operation?

“The old-style cars and the rules changes that would be made in the offseason definitely affected the smaller teams like ourselves, especially over a period of time. Now I feel like the parts and pieces as a whole really aren’t changing. We’ve got some underneath stuff that it’s not drastic for anybody by any means. We started 2022 with this car, and I felt like we were comparable to a lot of good race teams. But you saw a lot of mistakes, a lot of people were trying to figure things out, you saw a lot of blown tires… there were all these different issues that people were struggling with. As the season went on in ’22 is when we kind of started slipping away and is ultimately what made us feel like 2022 was a fail because by the end of the season we were really scratching our heads trying to figure out how they’re going so much faster. In ’23, we got more aligned with Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet and felt like we took a huge step forward. Now I feel like a lot of the info we have and the information that we’re gathering and not many rule changes… there’s no major parts or pieces that you’re going to bolt on your car or build or design yourself to go faster. Now that we know that these are the parts in the toolbox, it’s all about continuing to put them together the right way. I think we have enough data points now, and everybody is just closing in. I think we closed five-tenths away from the pole here in the second race, and position-wise I don’t think we were any different than we were at the 500. But we were eight-tenths off at the 500, so we’ve closed that gap but everyone is getting faster. I don’t think the leaders are getting further away. I think everyone is just getting closer. You see it within the organization. If you hit it this much better than your teammate, it seems like it shows really big on the racetrack. We’re all just looking for those little things. I think this car overall is better for us smaller teams in the grand scheme of things as far as trying to catch up. We’re not trying to design anything ourselves. We’re focused on the tools in the toolbox and the parts that they give us.”

How much confidence does it give you in your career that you’ll always be a Daytona 500 champion?

“It’s nice. The only way to make it better is to win another one and win a championship. For me it was definitely a huge accomplishment for our race team. There are a lot of people at our race team that have been in this sport for a long time and some never had a win in their whole career. It was really cool to bring that back to our race team and all our partners. We had a big blow-out summer party at the house and brought the families over and their kids and just enjoyed it and soaked it up last year. 2024 is a new season. We’ll remember those good times, but we have to make some more.”

What can you guys in the Chevy camp learn throughout the Duels just in terms of how each car reacts to pushes or takes pushes?

“The good news is the other manufacturers have made theirs easier to push people, so if they’re behind you I guess you feel a little more comfortable about that. I’m sure they’re probably a little nervous. Everyone is so equal when it comes to getting four or five cars in line. I feel like speed-wise is already really close. To me, there’s a lot of differences made in the drivers who are driving the racecars… when to push, how to push and what your line is doing. I’ve got friends in different manufacturers that I’ve worked really well with over the years and a lot in the Chevy camp that I’ve worked well with. For me on the Chevy side, we’re focused on what we need to do to make our Camaros fast. I feel really good about where we’re at. I think we’ll have more speed than what we had last year, which is never a bad thing.”