Mar. 1, 2013; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick (right) with boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr during qualifying for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Stenhouse Jr: A Champion?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr is already a winner. He has two NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship wins, he drives for Roush Fenway Racing and recently took over the No. 17 Ford in the Sprint Cup Series, and he is dating the most popular woman in racing, Danica Patrick. Stenhouse Jr dominated the Nationwide Series in 2011 and 2012 and he is already taking the Sprint Cup Series by storm.

Mar 1, 2013; Avondale, AZ, USA; Fans watch as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) enters the garage during practice for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

In his first start in the Great American Race, Stenhouse started 28th and finished 12th. Stepping into the car the won the Daytona 500 last season would have been daunting to an average driver, but not Stenhouse Jr, he drove like he had been there for years and that didn’t change as he took on both Phoenix and Las Vegas as well.

The second race of the season, the Subway Fresh Fit 500, took place at Phoenix International Raceway. Qualifying 12th and finishing 16th, Stenhouse ran a great race. By finishing well in both the Daytona 500 and the Subway Fresh Fit 500, Stenhouse earned him a 9th place points standing and also the current leader in the Rookie of the Year battle (against girlfriend Danica Patrick). Stenhouse ran in the top 5 for a good portion of the day until being shuffled back late in the race. Stenhouse was quite pleased with the No. 17 team’s performance saying, “You have to look at the positives and learn from the things we need to make better, but for the second weekend together I think we’re definitely heading in the right direction.”

Stenhouse came out hot again for the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegan Motor Speedway. Although he dropped to 11th in point standings, Stenhouse still ended the weekend with another top 20 finish. He had some ups and downs during the 400 miles. He led the first lap of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career but he also made some contact with the wall. He dropped off of the lead lap but a late caution in the race did allow him to finish on the lead lap. “We were running in the top 10 no problem but then we were way too tight for some reason,” he said. “Every pit stop we made we got tighter and tighter.” In the end, Stenhouse and his team ran a very respectable race.

As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Bristol this weekend, Stenhouse has a lot on his plate. He has no starts at this track in the Cup car but he has 1 pole and 2 top-10 finishes, including a 2nd place last spring, in the Nationwide Series.  Although the cars are very different, Stenhouse knows the track and he has a great team behind him.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr isn’t quite used to all of the attention he has been getting that’s to his new girlfriend but that all may change. If he continues to perform well and possibly compete for a win this season, he will be getting more attention for his skills on the track then his skills that captured the girl. Well on his way to capturing the Rookie of the Year Award, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if, in a few years, the name Ricky Stenhouse Jr is followed by Sprint Cup Series Champion.

Tags: NASCAR Ricky Stenhouse Jr Sprint Cup Series

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