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In the Draft: Stenhouse Jr. tries to master road courses

August 14, 2012, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Special to NASCAR.COM,

Driver finishes fifth at The Glen after turning laps with expert road racers

Last weekend we raced in the rolling hills of New York, and knowing that I don't have a great deal of road-course experience, I was a tad nervous going into the week. Still, we knew that we had two road-course races, Watkins Glen and Montreal, in a row and that they would play a key role in the Nationwide Series championship battle.

Our main focus was to come out of The Glen with minimal points lost, but we ended having a strong run, netting a top-five finish and actually gaining points in the race. The fourth-place finish was my best ever at a road course and was like a win for us. In addition, we got to see teammate Carl Edwards score Jack [Roush's] first-ever Nationwide win at The Glen, so it was a great day for the Roush Fenway team overall.

"This championship battle is going to be tight. ... I have a feeling this one is going to come down to the last lap at Homestead-Miami."


With the finish, we moved up to second place in the point standings and are currently sitting 13 points behind Elliott [Sadler]. This championship battle is going to be tight. Sam Hornish Jr. is closing in, and he has a wealth of road-course experience. I have a feeling this one is going to come down to the last lap at Homestead-Miami.

On Friday, it was raining at the start of practice. In the Nationwide series, we race in the rain. Goodyear gives us rain tires, and we build our cars so we can attach a windshield wiper if needed. We put our rain tires on and went out for practice. I have to tell you, I had a blast running in the rain. I think my crew chief thought I was going to make a fuel run because I didn't want to come in. After much persuasion, I brought our No. 6 Ford back to the garage. The rain stopped, and the track dried quickly, which allowed us to get a few more laps in on our sticker tires before the practice session ended.

Saturday morning, as I was driving to the track, I was praying that a rain cloud would come over and we would have to race in the rain. It's something we just don't get to do often, and it would have been a fun race for sure.

Earlier in the week, Ford asked [fellow Roush Fenway driver] Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. to accompany me out to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Both Billy and Jack are expert road racers and gave me tons of information to help me with my road-racing program. Ford brought some sweet Mustangs for us to drive around the track. One lap, I would ride with Billy while he explained different techniques. Then we would switch, and I would drive and he would critique and provide pointers.

I owe both Billy and Jack Jr. huge thanks because they are a big part of why we got a top-five finish at The Glen.

This weekend, it's on to Montreal for the second straight road-course race. Montreal is an extremely different road course, more so than Watkins Glen. The track is narrow, and we are forced to use a lot more brakes. It doesn't have the high-speed corners like The Glen. It makes for a challenging race for sure.

I will say the enthusiasm that the fans at Montreal bring is truly amazing. Hopefully, we can have another strong road-course outing, at least hold our position in the points and bring home another solid finish as we get ready to move into Bristol.

In the meantime, I have a Valvoline photo shoot Wednesday morning with Trevor [Bayne], and then afterward, I am going to work on perfecting my golf game before we leave for Montreal.

Make sure to tune in and watch us battle it out at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 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.