Driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. makes a pitch for Roush Fenway Racing

Boston Herald |

--NASCAR Monster Energy Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enjoys the perks associated with the Roush Fenway Racing team.

Stenhouse and RFR teammate Ryan Newman were guests of Red Sox principal owner John Henry and invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday night's game between the Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Stenhouse, a native of Olive Branch, Miss., is an Ole Miss football fanatic and former St. Louis Cardinals fan. Stenhouse took the mound after a brief rain delay and delivered a straight fastball he hoped would exceed 75 mph on the radar gun.

"I've been with Roush Fenway for 10 years and being able to bring our partners here and get to show them around Fenway Park is a great asset for us and vice versa because we use each other both ways," Stenhouse said.

"I'm from Mississippi and grew up going to Busch Stadium a couple of times a year to catch the Cardinals. I grew up a Cardinals fan but now I've switched to the Red Sox."

Henry owns a 50 percent share of Roush Fenway racing and is counting on big things from Stenhouse and Newman in Sunday's running of the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 on the unforgiving 1.058-mile low banked oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Stenhouse with drive the No. 17 Fastenal/Fifth Third Bank/Sunny D Ford Mustang, while Newman will be inside the No. 6 Performance Plus Motor Oil Ford Mustang.

"There's a little bit more excitement and a little bit more pressure because I know (Henry) would like us to get a win," Stenhouse said. "It's been awhile since Roush Fenway has had a win in New England.

"It's been a track where sometimes we've been fast and sometimes we struggled. But I'm looking forward to this weekend. I feel like our program and our race team is faster right now that we were last year."

Hobnobbing with the Red Sox was fun, but the serious business of stock car racing begins Friday with road tests and qualifying runs. Stenhouse has a mixed history on the Magic Mile and has learned from his successes and his mistakes.

Stenhouse has competed in 11 Cup races at NHMS with two top 10s, the last coming in 2016. While Stenhouse's two Monster Energy Series wins have been on the super speedways at Daytona and Talladega, he insisted the team's short track program is solid. Stenhouse's first order of business is to secure a favorable track position from his qualifying runs.

"At New Hampshire you need to qualify well, you need to start up front and have good strategy," Stenhouse said. "It can be a place that is hard to pass so if you qualify well and have a fast car and have a strategy to stay up front you can do well."

Stenhouse enjoyed a meteoric since securing back-to-back titles in the Xfinity Series in 2011 and 2012. He was a hit in his first season on the Monster Energy Series when he was named the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

Stenhouse was a NASCAR playoff qualifier in 2017 but took a step back last season and missed the cut. He currently is on bubble at 19th in the Cup points standings with one top-five finish and two in the top 10.

Stenhouse and veteran crew chief Brian Pattie need to put together a string of good performances with seven races remaining in the regular season to qualify for the 16-driver playoffs.

"The last two races we've done what we've needed to do to get stage points and obviously a win would be perfect," Stenhouse said. "There are some races we feel we can still win and a good strategy call here and New Hampshire could get us a win."

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