Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has caught a lot of people’s attention throughout 2017, and his crew chief thinks that’s a good thing for NASCAR.
Brian Pattie, who became Stenhouse’s crew chief ahead of this season, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Sunday that the 30-year-old Roush Fenway Racing driver is the type of driver NASCAR needs, according to Motorsport.com.
Given that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has lost Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart to retirement in the last two years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one foot out the door and Danica Patrick’s future is up in the air, the sport is in desperate need of marketable drivers. Although Jimmie Johnson is one of the most successful racers in NASCAR’s history, his fairly private lifestyle hasn’t made him one of its most popular competitors.
“He’s a good kid,” Pattie said of Stenhouse. “He’s great for our sport. He speaks well. He’s good-looking, young, talented. He’s a guy we can build a series around — one of the guys.”
Although some people, such as Kevin Harvick, have expressed misgivings that the sport’s current fan-favorite, Earnhardt, has hurt the sport because his results haven’t reflected his popularity, that might not be an issue with Stenhouse. In his first season with the No. 17 team, Pattie has seen signs that Stenhouse’s two wins this season weren’t flashes in the pan.
“In the car, there’s no lack of commitment, on the throttle side of things,” Pattie said. “He’s on the gas a lot. We look at data weekly and he’s wide-open throttle. His percentages are higher than the other people we collect.”
In addition to his determination behind the wheel, Stenhouse’s success, in spite of limited experience on paved race tracks, gives his team confidence in his abilities. Pattie noted that the majority of Stenhouse’s racing experience is on dirt, and in the nine years since he’s been racing on pavement, the Olive Branch, Miss., native has spent five at the Cup level.
Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images