Stenhouse Jr. Ready for Cup Career
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on June 28, 2012 | 7:11 P.M. EST
“Now it’s 2013 and it seems like forever since I ran ARCA. It’s just been an unbelievable ride.” (Photo: Getty Images)
The defending Nationwide Series champion was tabbed by team owner Jack Roush to take the place of the departing Matt Kenseth next season and join Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle in the team’s three car Sprint Cup stable.
To say it’s been a whirlwind week for Stenhouse is an understatement and the young driver is still having a hard time believing the turn of events that basically will see him replace one of the sport’s most successful drivers.
“It’s crazy, man, when I first signed with them in 2008, it was to run ARCA and I had never run a stock car before in my life,” Stenhouse said. “Looking at my contract, you’re like, ‘They want me to go full-time in 2014 and that doesn’t seem too far away.’
“Now it’s 2013 and it seems like forever since I ran ARCA. It’s just been an unbelievable ride.”
The decision by Kenseth to leave Roush, where he’s spent his entire NASCAR career, for what appears to be a ride at Joe Gibbs Racing caught much of the sports by surprise. That includes Stenhouse who says he had no idea what would transpire to eventually put him into the RFR Sprint Cup picture next season.
“It hasn’t been uncomfortable,” Stenhouse said of the situation and relationship with Kenseth. “For one, I don’t know any of the details of what went on between Matt and Roush Fenway. … I really thought he would retire at Roush Fenway, for sure.
“I wasn’t as shocked to hear that I was going to run full time. I was more shocked that Matt wasn’t going to come back.”
Stenhouse believed he had earned a chance to move up to NASCAR’s top series with the Roush team next year. However he thought that would come as a fourth entry not a replacement for Kenseth.
“I was kind of shocked when I heard the news,” Stenhouse said. “I thought for sure that we would be a fourth car and definitely didn't see Matt going anywhere. You just have to take advantage of each situation that you are in. We have to go into next year ready to go and learn as much as we can and try to finish this year off on a strong note.
“Earlier in the year we were talking about running some Cup races towards the end of the year to get ready for next year so I think Jack had the mindset that we were going to do that no matter what. I'm not sure what all happened, I just got the call (last) Thursday that said that we're going to run and Matt was not coming back.”
But when the news broke this week it turned into one of the biggest blockbuster moves in recent NASCAR history. Stenhouse was overwhelmed with just how big the story became.
“I guess I didn't realizes that it was going to be that big when they announced it so I thought that was pretty cool,” said Stenhouse. “Seeing everything on Twitter and everybody texting me. It's a great opportunity.”
Some of the details around the opportunity still have yet to be decided including what number Stenhouse will campaign in his rookie Sprint Cup season.
Whether he takes over Kenseth’s former No. 17 or runs another number, Stenhouse is just thrilled to have the chance he’s been given.
“As of right now I don't have a say so on the car number,” he said. “I'm just excited to race. We've been the six for a couple years. I think that depends on sponsorships and stuff like that. I'll let them kind of figure that out.”