TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY -- Rickey Stenhouse Jr. enters this weekend's 1000Bulbs.com in search of a ride for the 2020 season.
Stenhouse and Roush Fenway Racing parted ways in late September even though he was under contract until the 2021 season. The seventh-year driver said he doesn't know what the future holds, but he would love to get another win in the No. 17 Ford.
“I don't know if you can say that my whole future depends on the race here at Talladega,” Stenhouse said. “You could easily win one, you could easily lose one, but my team is putting a lot of emphasis on this.
“We just want to get a win for the group of guys that I have worked with for a long time. I know we have a good shot at it.
“Brian (Pattie, crew chief) and the guys always bring a really good car here. Jimmy’s (Fennig) been working tirelessly on this, and Doug (Yates) always gives us great horsepower here to get the job done.
“So for us and the 17 team, that’s what we’ve been focused on, that’s what I’ve been focused on.”
The free agent said his team has spoken with some teams, but he anticipates it will be a while before a decision on his future is made.
“I'll let my team off (the) track agentwise handle everything beyond that and what we are going to do for next year with options and trying to figure everything out,” Stenhouse said. “It is not a quick process. We have talked to many teams. We are trying to wait and see what direction we are trying to go.”
Stenhouse has only made the playoffs once in his seven seasons in the Cup Series, but Talladega has been a good track for Stenhouse and for Ford drivers. Out of his last six races at 2.66 tri-oval, he has four top-five finishes, including a win in the 2017 spring race.
Ford has owned Talladega as of late, having won seven of the last eight races here. Chase Elliott was able to end the streak this past spring with his first win at Talladega. Chevrolet had six of the top eight drivers in the GEICO 500.
Stenhouse said other manufacturers are starting to catch up with Ford at superspeedways.
“I think we at Ford have done a good job with that,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “We won seven, eight, nine in a row or whatever it was. It was all working together, having some meetings together. Just understanding what the whole objective was for the day, and that's really the big thing.”
After being let go at Roush Fenway Racing, Stenhouse said he missed the competition meeting before the race at Charlotte. He said he has been openly communicating with the team in the weeks since.
"I decided I was not gonna go," Stenhouse said. "It probably wasn’t a good week for me to go to my competition meetings.
“Since then, I call and give them feedback and let them know how my race was going, and then also we have meetings on the weekend. So like last week at Dover, I went to them and (was) just still trying to gather all the information that I can to make our team better for that weekend, and then again turn around and doing it the next week."
With Stenhouse set to leave Ford at the end of the season, he is no longer able to attend meetings that contain confidential information.
“The way it works at Roush is we have competition meetings, individual team meetings and then we’d have a big competition meeting with the Front Row guys and everybody," he said. "And then after that, it would be kind of an engineering-based meeting of what we’re working on, what’s coming down the pipeline, and that’s just things to keep us drivers engaged and focused on what we were working on, so those are the ones I can’t be in."