Just days after being named by Roush Fenway Racing as Matt Kenseth’s replacement, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. met with the media Thursday at Kentucky Speedway and said he "didn't really realize (the move) was going to be that big."
“I thought that was pretty cool seeing everything on Twitter and everybody texting me," Stenhouse said. "It was like I won a race again with people texting me and things like that.
“It is a great opportunity. I was kind of shocked when I heard the news. I thought for sure that we would be a fourth car and definitely didn’t see Matt going anywhere.”
The original plan when Stenhouse signed on with Roush Fenway Racing four years ago was for him to be in the Sprint Cup Series by 2014 – even though there was some talk this offseason of accelerating those plans after he rolled to last year’s Nationwide Series championship. But when sponsorship couldn’t be found, the decision was made to keep Stenhouse Jr. in NASCAR’s number two series for another year.
However, with Kenseth’s sudden announcement an opportunity has been created and, as such, Stenhouse Jr. will be a contender for Rookie of the Year in 2013 as the handpicked successor to the man who won RFR’s first Sprint Cup championship.
“I am not sure what all happened,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I just got the call Thursday that said we were going to run and Matt was not coming back. I have no idea how it went down. I just got a phone call and never would have expected that.”
What is expected is that expectations will be high for Stenhouse Jr. during his rookie campaign. But as Stenhouse Jr. himself acknowledged Thursday, that’s to be expected when you race for a team like RFR.
“I think the expectations are high anyway,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “Being with an organization like Roush Fenway Racing who has been winning for 25 years I don’t think a number really decides how much pressure there is. I put a lot of pressure on myself each week and being in equipment that can win and run upfront there is going to be a lot of pressure. I think I am going to put a lot of pressure on myself more than anybody.”
For now, the former sprint car driver is just letting the news sink in as he prepares for Friday’s Feed the Children 300 Nationwide Series race.
“It feels great,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I rode up here with Mom and Dad in the motor home and Dad asked me, ‘What do you think?’ I try not to let it get too big right now. I want to stay focused and have to stay humbled and keep going. You can’t look to far ahead but I feel great about the opportunity.”