The night may have belonged to Dale Earnhardt Jr., but another Junior made the NASCAR Nationwide series record books at the Subway Jalapeno 250 Friday. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the brand new NASCAR Mustang to the podium, taking third place in its debut race.
Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drive their Ford Mustangs through the Tri-Oval of the Daytona International Speedway during the Subway Jalapeno 250. Edwards went on to finish 11th while Stenhouse Jr. finished 3rd.
Earnhardt piloted the specially painted No. 3 Chevy to the win after a late-yellow gamble kept him on the track while others pitted for fresh tires. The Impala wore the Intimidator’s famous number and equally well-known blue and yellow livery to honor the elder Earnhardt’s entry into the NASCAR hall of fame. Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in 2001.
Joey Logano drove his Toyota to second place, with Stenhouse taking the final podium spot. Not long after, a Ford Racing official had a chance to ask the Rookie of the Year candidate a couple of questions.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – No. 6 Blackwell Angus Beef Ford Mustang (Finished 3rd)
“We definitely needed this. It was awesome. Ford put a great Mustang underneath us and Blackwell Angus Been Company came on for this race especially. It was special to get a top-three here, especially at Daytona. It’s our best run in the Nationwide Series and our best run by far this year and, hopefully, we can just keep this momentum going.”
What did you learn tonight?
“Patience, definitely a lot of patience. You’ve got to be there at the end. We kept working on this car and we would lose the draft at the beginning, but at the end Mike Kelley and the Blackwell Angus Beef guys got this thing ready where I could hold it wide open those last few laps and it paid off.”
Later, Stenhouse spoke with reporters at the driver’s press conference.
Brian Ickler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. run side by side in the new Ford Mustang Nationwide cars.
How was your run?
“It was definitely not the best at the beginning. We worked on it a lot. We were just really loose on entry and pretty tight in the center, and we just kept working on it. Our guys got the Blackwell Angus Ford Mustang a lot better at the end and even on old tires that was the best we were. We could hold it wide open there.
“We were running with the 21 trying to get up with Joey and the guys in that lead pack, but the caution came out and it worked out to our favor. I thought we made the wrong call by staying out. It seemed like a lot of guys came in behind us, but it all worked out. If I had known Joey’s plan to get a run there into turn three for sure, then I probably would have maybe come home second with him there, but we’ll take third. We definitely needed it and I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
What does it mean to see the No. 3 in Victory Lane to you? Is it a big deal to you?
“I definitely thought it was awesome. Just to be out there racing with him and we got to draft a little bit there in the first practice on Thursday. I was trying to learn as much as I could from him because, obviously, he’s pretty good here.
“To see the 3 in Victory Lane was definitely awesome, and just to be out there racing with him was pretty cool. But, like Joey said, I think I’d be more happy if we were in Victory Lane.”
Can you talk about being back in the Top 30?
“Unfortunately, that’s a good goal we’ve been trying to work at for a while. It just seems like every time we had something going, something was there to get in our way. It means a lot for us to get back in the top 30 and, hopefully, we can just carry this momentum out. I feel like we’ve had some really good race cars, and have just not been able to finish the deal. Some of the things was definitely me putting us in a bad situation, but there’s a lot of stuff that could have gone our way that didn’t, so, hopefully, we can carry this momentum onto Chicago, and, hopefully, the rest of this season.”
And there were other racers in Daytona trying out the new Mustang stock car. Here’s what they had to say about their race.
Brian Ickler – No. 16 Con-way Freight Ford Mustang (Finished 9th)
“We started with a really good race car. I was really happy with it and then we struggled because I got really, really free. I fell out of the draft twice, but we came in and got tires and didn’t lift from there.
“I got in the right lane and finished ninth, so, all in all, it was a good run. We had good pit stops all night and I’m really happy. It’s definitely a momentum booster for the weeks ahead.”
Carl Edwards – No. 60 Copart Ford Mustang (Finished 11th)
Carl Edwards' Ford Mustang is serviced by his crew in the pits of the Daytona International Speedway.
“It just didn’t work out as far as trying to push Ricky with the way all the holes ended up at the end. We had great tires and we had a fast race car. We just took a gamble and it didn’t work out like we wanted, but that’s OK. I had a lot of fun racing and we had a lot faster car than where we finished, so that’s good.”
Ken Schrader – No. 09 RAB Racing Mustang (Finished 25th)
“I spun the tires. Sacks spun them in front of me and I let up to get off of him and wound up spinning them anyway.”
Jennifer Jo Cobb – No. 27 Driver Boutique Ford Mustang (Finished 43rd)
It took a while to get out of the car. was everything OK?
“Yeah, I let my spotter know I was okay and the safety workers know I was okay. There was a bit of a fire in the beginning and I said, ‘Just tell me when I can move,’ and they said, ‘The fire is out, you’re fine.’
“I wanted to make sure Johnny was okay. I hate that we caused something that hurt one of our competitors. He’s very gracious. I said to him, ‘I’m very sorry. Did you see that I did anything wrong?’ What I believe is that was the first time all week that we’ve had another car on our bumper and it just did not hold. Everyone else was able to work those gremlins out in practice and, unfortunately, we had to do it during the race.
“From the 43 standpoint and the 27 standpoint, neither one of us had backup cars, so I guess we’d rather do it in the first few laps than in practice. I hate it for both teams. I hate it for Ford Racing. I was hoping to be there at the end with this new Ford Mustang.”
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