NASCAR driver Stenhouse takes turn with NC State's marching band

csmith@newsobserver.comSeptember 17, 2013 

— Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has worn many hats this year – leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year points standings, Danica Patrick’s significant other and, most recently, a top-10 finisher in his past two races – and when he visited N.C. State’s campus Tuesday morning he represented all ofNASCAR.

Stenhouse tried his hand at drilling with the color guard and playing the bass drum and other instruments with the N.C. State marching band, “The Power Sound of the South,” as part of an announcement that it would be traveling to Martinsville Speedway to play the national anthem at the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 on Oct. 27.

Stenhouse then fielded questions from the media on just about every topic except, most shocking to him, his relationship with Patrick.

Q: You knew as a NASCAR drive you’d have to wear a lot of hats, did you ever expect to be asked to play instruments?

A: Never. I don’t think I deserve to stand in a drum line or even a marching band. These guys are really good and obviously that’s why they’re coming out to Martinsville Speedway.

Q: Do you have a musical past?

A: I have zero musical past (laughs). I have zero rhythm. I can get on a rhythm on the race track and hit my marks and hit my lines, but I don’t have any rhythm with instruments. I love music, and country music is my favorite, but I wish I could play an instrument.

Q: What’s your reaction to the recent issues with the spinout, and do you think NASCAR dealt with them properly?

A: I’m just happy I wasn’t in the middle of it for one. … I think NASCAR did the best job they felt was possible with that. I’m new to the series, so I don’t have a say like Tony Stewart would, I’m just trying to go with the flow and do what they tell me to do.

I think they did the best job they could and hopefully the fans see that. You’re going to have fans that liked it and didn’t like it. Obviously Jeff Gordon fans loved it. I’m just glad I didn’t have to make any of those decisions. NASCAR is all about their rule book, and the teams stretching the limits and pushing the envelope here and there is what made that rule book.

Q: What was the feeling like amongst the drivers heading into last weekend’s race after those issues and rule changes?

A: We were excited to see how the new restart rule was going to work. I think that was a big step in the right direction. The second-place driver can now be the leader to the line, but the leader has to make the initial start. I think that makes the restarts better and allows the fans (to) not have any doubts about who was first to the line.

Q: What did you learn most from your first race at Martinsville?

A: I learned that we (stunk) (he laughs again). I’ve got a lot to learn at Martinsville, which is why I’m looking forward to our (three-day) test there. For me, there was a lot of things I can do differently, like over-driving the corner too much and didn’t let the car handle as well as it should have.

I also learned that you have to be ready for everything. I got log-jammed there and ran into the back of somebody, the hood came up and that was kind of embarrassing.

Q: Do you have room for a grandfather clock (the prize for winning the race) in your home?

A: I would love a grandfather clock, that would be awesome. We’re on a roll here with two top-10 finishes in our last two races, and our team seems to be getting that momentum we’ve needed all year. I thought by now we’d already have a few top-10s and we just now got them. Hopefully we can keep that momentum up.

Smith: 919-829-8941; Twitter: @RCorySmith

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