Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has experienced a whirlwind week. He has traveled the country after winning the Daytona 500 while conducting several interviews and meeting with dozens of fans, but these are experiences he will never forget.
As Stenhouse told Heavy ahead of a fan meet-and-greet at Ralphs, he has taken part in many post-win obligations throughout his NASCAR career. However, the Daytona 500 is in an entirely different realm. He spent time in both Chicago and New York while the rest of the No. 47 team prepared for the West Coast swing of the schedule.
“It’s been a blast being able to represent our partners with Kroger and Ralphs and everyone that makes our program go around,” Stenhouse said. “But also getting to celebrate what our team accomplished and then also helping celebrate and promote our sport.
“So it’s been pretty unique, something that I haven’t experienced at this level. I’ve done things like this, but not going to NASDAQ and things like that. So, it’s been pretty special.”
Stenhouse Knows He Has an Important Role
Winning the Daytona 500 was significant for Stenhouse and JTG Daugherty Racing. This locked him into the playoffs for the time being and likely extended his career in the Cup Series. It also brought even more attention to his various sponsors, which are all-important in terms of contracts and seat opportunities due to the current revenue model.
When Stenhouse joined JTG Daugherty Racing ahead of the 2020 season, he took over a ride that had a solid lineup of partners through Kroger. However, the organization has continued to add others such as Coca-Cola, Tree Top, and Reese’s while transitioning into a one-car operation.
“Obviously, when I came here, it ended up being pandemic years,” Stenhouse said. “I think pre-pandemic they had a lot of partners, right? And so I think it’s just them finally getting that built back up to where it normally is.
“It makes for a busy, busy time in between races and promoting each and every one of them, but they’ve done a great job. It’s all great partners, and they see the value of the Kroger program, they see the value of NASCAR.”
Simply bringing sponsors to the table is only part of the process. Stenhouse has to perform on the track to give them TV time. He also has to take part in numerous meet-and-greets and activations across the country.
This has not been a hurdle for Stenhouse, JTG Daugherty Racing, or his sponsors. The driver of the No. 47 has continued to make these trips so that he can shake countless hands, sign even more autographs, and do just as many interviews at Ralphs, Kroger, Food 4 Less, and other locations.
“I mean, as a racer, especially this day and age, you’ve got to kind of go above and beyond, and make it worth the partners’ while and make them feel like they’re getting out of this partnership, what they need to,” Stenhouse said.
“I take pride in putting that work in. Whatever’s needed, whether it be on my sprint car team or whether it be here on the Cup team, I try and do a little bit more than what’s expected.”
Stenhouse Aims for More Post-Win Obligations
Stenhouse has won the biggest race in NASCAR, and he will forever have “Daytona 500 winner” attached to his name. Though he remains in pursuit of even more wins and even more post-event obligations.
The Mississippi native has acknowledged that one win is unlikely to guarantee a spot in the playoffs in the Next Gen era. He still needs to stack points and fight for more wins as the Cup Series continues.
One goal for Stenhouse is to average a 15th-place finish for the remainder of the season. He explained that achieving this would help him likely accumulate enough points to still reach the playoffs if there are more than 16 winners in the regular season.
Reaching this point will take considerable effort and preparation, but Stenhouse expressed optimism about the No. 47 team’s chances during his pre-Fontana interview session. He noted that there is still a lot of time remaining for the team to get even better.
“We’ve got 35 more races left this year,” Stenhouse said. “So a lot of time to continue to perfect that and tweak it and try and be in the best position we can be come towards the end of the season.”