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In the Draft: Stenhouse has high hopes for 2012

February 14, 2012, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Stenhouse coming off busy offseason as champ, but ready to defend his title

I can't believe it is already time to head to Daytona, but I am ready to go back racing. I am looking forward to defending our NASCAR Nationwide title but also getting the amazing opportunity to run Roush's legendary No. 6 Ford in my first Daytona 500.

"My crew chief, Mike Kelley, and I sat down and reviewed last season and we believe that we gave up a couple of races that we should have won so I want to go out and win six or more races this season. "

--RICKY STENHOUSE JR.

I kept myself busy during the offseason. I went back home to Mississippi for the holidays. It was great seeing and spending time with my family and friends. Even though my family attends numerous races, it still isn't the same as being home.

NASCAR held a test at Daytona in January which we participated in to get some extra laps on the track, figure out the new fuel injection engine, and allow me to get more comfortable in the Cup car. Matt [Kenseth] and I hooked up for the two-car tandem draft, and it was really fast, which I liked. I think the final two laps of the Daytona 500 are going to be interesting, because you can only push for about a lap and a half before having to switch so I think that you are going to have some risk takers on those final two laps.

The Chili Bowl was the same week as the Daytona test so I flew back and forth with Tony [Stewart] to Tulsa. This was my first time back in a car since Homestead. We finished second in our qualifier race and ninth in the 50-lap finale. I grew up racing sprint cars on a dirt track in West Memphis, Ark., so it was fun to get back to my roots.

Next stop was the X Games in Aspen. The original plan was to fly up to Ironwood, Mich., work with Joe Duncan, competition director for snowmobiles at X Games, and several Winter X athletes on how to jump a snowmobile, and then I was going to make a jump on the Winter X course in Aspen. We ended up having to cancel our flights because of the snow storm. I was super bummed but Jack [Roush] was probably pretty happy, because I think he was worried I would come back with some kind of cast. The X Games were awesome. I talked to Heath Frisby a couple of days before he landed the first ever front flip on a snowmobile. I think I was more nervous for him than he was, and I am normally not a nervous guy but that was truly amazing to see.

I am really looking forward to the 2012 season. My guys have been working hard, getting everything ready for Daytona. We have a really cool paint scheme. My crew chief, Mike Kelley, and I sat down and reviewed last season and we believe that we gave up a couple of races that we should have won so I want to go out and win six or more races this season.

Well I am off to shoot an ESPN commercial at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but I look forward to sharing with you what I am doing on and off the track.

Until next time ...

In the Draft with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a twice-monthly blog and the opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. Follow him and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team on Twitter: @stenhousejr, @pr6nns, and @roushfenway.