Ricky Stenhouse on his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team and his performance so far during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season: “I feel really good about everything and my guys are working really hard. They come on the track well prepared and give a lot of confidence. We have set targets and there are some good circuits coming up.”
Next up for Stenhouse and the team is the World Wide Technology Raceway – a track where Stenhouse really wants to excel on a Sunday afternoon.
“I mean everyone wants to go out and win every week,” he said. “However, in this sport and where we are as a team, that’s just not a real goal to set, is it? I mean, yes, go into the weekend and want to battle for the win, but you have to set realistic targets, and of course after last year we felt there was a lot of room for improvement. So we sat down and we looked at all the racetracks and we were like, ‘Okay, we’re going to get better at these racetracks. On some of those other circuits we still have to improve a little bit, but we don’t have to go backwards.’
“And I feel like we’re doing that now. I feel like all the racing that we really struggled with last year, we’ve been much more competitive this year. The tracks we were good at last year, I feel like we’ve improved and we’re still good this year. We wanted an average 15th place finish, and so far we’re doing that, which is huge for us and our consistency. We’re just improving our cars every week, so it’s been a nice start to the season.”
Fourteen races into the ’23 Cup season, Stenhouse is 13th in points with an average finishing position of 13.5. All things considered, he is fine with numbers.
“So far, so good,” Stenhouse said. “2017 was our best year in which we got a few wins and finished 13th in the points. This year I feel a little more competitive than I did back then. There are some races coming up that will be strong for us and that we can win. Coming into Gateway this weekend, that was by far our worst track last year. We really struggled a lot there. This weekend I come in to finish 15th. If we can do that, I think we’ll be a lot ahead. You have to pick and choose with what you’re trying to do on the track and you just get better every week.
“Like with our execution. Some races we’ve had fast cars and not run, and there have been other races where we’ve had a slightly slower car, but we performed better and got a better finish. For us, that’s the most important thing to get our execution down. It is clear that we still have work to do to ensure that we are in the play-offs. We feel really good about where we stand, but you never know. So what we do know going into the playoffs, you have to be consistent and you can’t give up points if you have a good race car.”
Stenhouse’s season started in the best way possible at Daytona, but consistency has been the main goal ever since. Motorsport images
A key element in the No. 47 team’s season is crew chief Mike Kelly, a man Stenhouse is right in line with.
“He’s definitely a great team leader,” said Stenhouse. “It is now so competitive in Cup. It’s wild how close these cars are. So it’s the little things that I think make your team strive to be better than the others. It’s important to me to have a leader like Mike Kelly who believes in what we’re doing, believes in where we’re going, but also shows the team how we’re going to get there and how we’re going to do it. do a race weekend like this weekend at Gateway. It was a place that we struggled with last year, as I said – Mike pumped us up. And we’re gonna have a good time here. We will have no problems finishing in the top 15. It will be fine. That confidence and that kind of football coach mentality is really important. with the way these cars are. My boys respond very well to Mike. And I. I feel like Mike has more confidence in me than I do myself, so that’s why it increases confidence in myself, so that’s been a huge, huge blessing to our team.
Stenhouse, winner of the 2023 Daytona 500 and a streak of seven consecutive finishes of 15th or better, spoke about how important confidence can be for both him and the entire race team.
“I feel like I showed up on the track last year, it was like, ‘Man I just got my fingers crossed. Maybe it will be a good one,” he said. “Now I show up and even if it’s not a good one I still feel like we can finish 15th and find a way. That’s big.
“The team is doing a lot of good things. I really feel like we’re clicking. We’ve got great guys on the team. It’s all the same guys really that we struggled with last year, and so to see the success we’re having and to seeing the confidence they have in themselves is amazing they are just eager to get to the track every weekend you know it’s not a burden to get on a plane so you know we have a great time together. The gods are pumped up and I think we have a lot of great things ahead of us. I don’t want to say we have bigger things ahead. We won the Daytona 500 to start the season. So that’s that’s pretty big! But still, we all feel like we’ve got a lot of good stuff left this year.”
Story originally appeared on Racer