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Infusion of talent and personality fuel Stenhouse, Bayne pairing

May 17, 2011, Jill Erwin,

Infusion of talent and personality fuel Stenhouse, Bayne pairing

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne might just be the Odd Couple of the Nationwide Series garage.

Stenhouse, the points leader after five races, listens to music by David Allan Coe and is the much more reserved of the two -- a homebody, if you will. Trevor Bayne, reigning Daytona 500 champion, dominates the conversation and prefers anything with guitars.

But somehow the two youngsters have built on an already existing relationship and become even closer in the months they've been together at Roush Fenway Racing.

"Ricky's a guy who's happy sitting at home by himself watching Good Morning America, or whatever," Bayne said with a laugh. "I've gotten him out of his shell a lot. If you can get him to hang out for more than an hour, then you're good. Here's a story: We're at dinner the other night, and he says, 'All right, I gotta go. I need to pack, I'm going to Nashville for the day.' And I was like, 'You're going and coming back in one day? Why do you need to pack?' But that's just who he is."

Stenhouse, an apparently ancient 23, isn't a real big fan of talking on the phone. He says he'll make Bayne mad when Bayne calls him twice in a row -- Stenhouse is always near his phone, he just might not answer -- and then Stenhouse replies with a text.

It might not be one-upsmanship, but it is a game. And one thing the two of them have in common is a competitive streak second to none.

And so, was born.

RFR launched the site last week, featuring videos of the two talking trash, bouncing ping pong balls into cups and talking to the fans. They plan on doing weekly challenges. In regards to the ping pong challenge, they were to bounce ping pong balls into glasses, and the first to make five in a row wins. Bayne went first and did it in 56 seconds. He felt good about it.

Then Stenhouse rocked it out in 6 seconds.

"I thought that was going to be tough to beat, because we both struggled when we were practicing before," Stenhouse said. "Then I did it and was like, 'Where'd that come from?' "

"We practiced for a good five minutes, and neither of us got it in," Bayne said. "Then, when it got to game time, I did it in 56 seconds and was like, 'I don't think he's got a chance.' Then he did that! He was like when I ran the 500, like, 'Are you kidding me?'"

But the competition, and the videos on the site, relate to racing as well. Whoever finishes highest in each week's race, his face is taped over the face of a Mark Martin figure. The other? Well, he goes on the opposite side, a little lower.

"Ricky thinks about it every lap," Bayne said. " 'Gotta be on the face, gotta be on the face.' "

The two became friends last season when both participated in a small Bible study group in the Nationwide garage Saturdays before the race. When the opportunity came for Bayne to move to RFR, he reached out to Stenhouse.

"He called me and let me know what was going on," Stenhouse said. "That was really cool. 'I don't want you to think I'm coming over and taking everything from you.' It was cool of him to do that."

So far this season, Stenhouse has the upper hand. Not only is he leading the points for the first time in his career, but he's finished higher than Bayne in every race except Las Vegas.

"I feel like I'm more comfortable now and having a lot more fun," Stenhouse said. "It's just knowing I have a shot every week. We have fast race cars, and when we unload, I just feel really confident we have a top-five race car every week."

For others at Roush Fenway, it's the infusion of talent and personality that makes the pair so much fun.

"I think that everybody is absolutely thrilled to have two young drivers of the caliber of Trevor and Ricky," team president Steve Newmark said. "They're just both really quality young men and folks we're thrilled to be affiliated with. To watch them interact and see how much pleasure they get going out there and being part of the team is great. We hope both those guys will be part of Roush Fenway for the long haul."