Stenhouse Set for Chili Bowl, Cup Season
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on January 5, 2017 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Stenhouse will get his 2017 racing season started next week in the Chili Bowl Nationals before heading to Daytona next month to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will get his 2017 season started early next week by competing in the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals before beginning his fifth full year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
During the off-season, Roush Fenway Racing announced a number of changes that included the organization downsizing to two cars and Brian Pattie being named Stenhouse's crew chief. Pattie replaced Nick Sandler, who is now director of engineering.
"Everybody we have running different departments and different groups of people, the engineering side and the crew chief side are jelling after the last-minute changes we made this off-season," Stenhouse told the Motor Racing Network. "Nick (Sandler) did a great job as crew chief, but he's our strongest engineer and they wanted to put him in charge of all engineering. It’s a role he's embraced."
Pattie transitioned to the No. 17 team after being Greg Biffle's crew chief last season. Biffle and RFR parted ways at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign, turning the focus to just two cars for 2017. Trevor Bayne will again drive the No. 6 Ford for the third consecutive season.
"Having the focus on two cars is nice," Stenhouse said. "When updates are made throughout the fleet, that process is quicker. The information on the weekend, bouncing ideas off each other, you won’t have as many to get feedback from. It's no different than when Trevor (Bayne) and I were running the XFINITY Series together."
Many of Stenhouse's primary sponsors will be back for this season including Fastenal, Fifth Third Bank and Sunny D.
"I think we are looking really good on sponsorship for both sides," Stenhouse said. "Our partners are awesome here that we have at Roush Fenway Racing. We're excited to have all of these resources, not only time and effort of people but also the money that's coming in to be directed to the two cars."
But before the two Roush Fenway drivers take to the track at Daytona International Speedway next month, Stenhouse will spend next week in Tulsa, Okla. driving a midget car at the Chili Bowl for Clauson-Marshall Racing.
"The off-season, winter time, indoor - there are so many things that add up to the prestigious Chili Bowl that's been going on for a long time, and everybody wants to get a 'Driller' (Golden Driller Trophy) and add their name to the list of winners," Stenhouse said. "That’s what we're there for. It’s about filling up your off-season with your racing family and breathing in fumes for a week."
Stenhouse has made the Chili Bowl A-main four times in his career, finishing a career-best ninth in 2012. This year's race features over 350 entries. The opening day of the Chili Bowl is particularly special for Stenhouse. Following practice, the third annual Bryan Clauson's Racers for Autism hosted by Lauren Stewart will be held.
"Last year, we raised about $75,000," Stenhouse said. "We've got a buddy, Ben, who has autism. He's Bryan's biggest fan. I've adopted him as a fan because of Bryan. There are some cool items to bid on. Kyle Larson and I have the pink Bryan Clauson tribute helmets we ran in our Cup cars at the end of the year. We've got those going up for bid."