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From the notebook: Stenhouse quickly learns to give back

May 19, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com



From the notebook: Stenhouse quickly learns to give back

In the space of less than a year, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has gone from seemingly being on the verge of losing his ride with Roush Fenway Racing to being a legitimate contender for the Nationwide Series championship.

But Stenhouse, 23, has learned something else along the way; namely how to give back. The devastating flooding that's ongoing along the length of the Mississippi River got his attention, and he immediately took action prior to last weekend's race at Dover International Speedway.

"When I thought about the level of the sport I'm at and the media attention NASCAR and the Nationwide Series gets -- it's just cool to be on the level where we can [make a difference]."

--RICKY STENHOUSE JR.

"It's weird, because I've never really thought about it -- or really haven't ever been in a position to do anything like this," Stenhouse said. "It didn't initially occur to me, but when I thought about the level of the sport I'm at and the media attention NASCAR and the Nationwide Series gets -- it's just cool to be on the level where we can [make a difference]."

Stenhouse went home for Mother's Day, to Olive Branch, Miss., which is only a short 20-minute ride from some of the most profoundly afflicted areas in his state, and it was an eye-opener.

"Fortunately, [his home] is far enough away from it to not be directly affected, but [the Mississippi River] runs all the way along the state line, so there are a lot of people that are struggling from it," Stenhouse said last weekend at Dover. "I'd heard about it and seen some pictures, and that really got me wanting to do something.

"I really wanted to see it -- but it was awful. I hadn't ever seen anything like it anywhere close to where I'm from, and it just sucks."

Stenhouse immediately pledged his portion of the Dover race winnings to the cause -- and then he stepped up and scored his third top-five finish of the season, as well as his eighth top-10 in 11 races. The devastation has had a big effect on him.

"So many people are out of jobs because they're just filled with water," Stenhouse said, shaking his head. "At the casino there, where you'd valet [park] your car you can't even drive through there because the water is up to the roof -- so it's just crazy.

"You've got farmers with crops that are gone. You've got families that can't be in their houses. You've got people that can't go to work and make a living. And those circumstances are out of their control. It's just an unbelievable amount of water [and] it's just not good."

In addition to the message on the No. 6 Ford, Stenhouse and his Roush Fenway Racing teammates signed its hood with the flood relief signage and it's being auctioned for the cause, through the NASCAR Foundation's NASCAR Unites initiative, in an effort to generate additional revenue for the cause.

"It's cool just to be able to help out," Stenhouse said. "Obviously there are a lot of states being affected -- Louisiana [is getting] it bad -- but it's cool to be able to help out Mississippi. You don't always hear a lot about it and now, this is not really for a good reason."

Team owner Jack Roush and his organization stepped up when Stenhouse approached them about branding their car at Dover with a message highlighting the need for "Mississippi Flood Relief."

"I talked to the guys at Roush about it," Stenhouse said. "Obviously we didn't have a sponsor on the car [for Dover] and we've been struggling to find [full-time] sponsorship for it, so it was a good opportunity to help out Mississippi -- the state I'm from and that I love."

Flood stage for the Mississippi River is 34 feet but was at 48 feet in Memphis, Tenn., the week before Dover. The rising water has interrupted coal shipments to power plants in Tennessee, flooded more than 100,000 acres of Missouri cropland, forced thousands from their homes and prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to take emergency measures to reduce the river's force.

"It's a really tough and devastating situation," Stenhouse said. "And it's not over yet."

One of the avenues to help is through www.nascar.com/unites for more information, under Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Mississippi Flood Relief.

The Lionel NASCAR Collectables company will produce a limited number of die-cast replica cars with this paint scheme and a portion of those sales will be donated to the relief fund.