March 6, 2013

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. doesn’t mind losing No. 17's crew to Carl Edwards

Stenhouse ended up with Edwards’ old pit crew.

After 70 races, almost two years’ worth, Carl Edwards is a winner again.

That’s good for him.

Good for Roush-Fenway Racing.

Good for Ford.

And, figures Ricky Stenhouse Jr., good for NASCAR.

“We need it for our sport,” Stenhouse said this week during a visit to Texas Motor Speedway to promote the track’s season and the upcoming NRA 500. “He’s a great ambassador for it.”

Edwards is indeed a good ambassador. He’s skilled with the media, is becoming as visibile as Jared in the Subway commercials and is a strong driver — the 2011 Sprint Cup runner-up on a tiebreaker.

So Stenhouse, ahem understood when Edwards got to take the crew from the No. 17 car left behind at Roush by Matt Kenseth. Stenhouse got the 17 ride, but not the crew that turned Kenseth into a two-time Daytona 500 champion. Nope. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig and company went to Edwards’ No. 99, and already the results are clear.

“We felt like that was the best situation for us,” Stenhouse said. “Carl needed to get back to winning for them, and I told them whatever’s the best way to do that, we need it for our company. To get him back winning with Matt’s old crew is great.”

Much of Edwards’ old crew went to Stenhouse, who’s in his first Sprint Cup year after winning back-to-back series titles in Nationwide. But the new crew is no stranger to Stenhouse.

“They’re guys that I knew for a long time,” Stenhouse said. “When I was in ARCA in 2008, I would go and hang out a lot with Carl’s car when he was running the Sprint Cup races, and so I knew all those guys, because those were guys that were with him for a long time. So they believed in what I could do, and they were excited to come and work with me.”

Stenhouse has started the year OK. He was 12th at Daytona and 16th last week at Phoenix. But he is a rookie, and he knows it.

“On the competition side, we still got a lot to learn as a team,” he said. “We’re learning. But this past weekend at Phoenix, I needed to do some things different in practice. That’s what we’re trying to learn each and every week. We’re off to a good start. Definitely have something that we can build on throughout the season.”

Edwards can say the same. And did.

“I know this is probably wrong to admit, but I didn’t really have Phoenix marked on the calendar as the one that we were going to go win the first race,” Edwards said in a conference call Wednesday. “I was looking at Vegas as the race that would be the really good one. So I’m really excited about Vegas. After seeing my pit crew perform at Phoenix, I’m going to Vegas to win this thing this weekend.”

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