CONCORD, N.C. — The text message Tuesday night asked Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to be at Roush Fenway Racing at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
“I’ve gotten plenty of those texts before, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Stenhouse said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But when Stenhouse’s agent called at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to say that they also had been called to the meeting, Stenhouse admitted he thought “it’s probably not very good.”
The team informed Stenhouse that he would not be retained after this season. His opening allowed Roush Fenway Racing to sign Chris Buescher for 2020.
“Didn’t know that it was coming,” Stenhouse said. “That’s part of it. People get fired every day from their jobs.”
Stenhouse said he was “pretty blindsided” by Roush Fenway Racing’s decision to release him after this season even though he had a contract through the 2021 season — although the team had the option to end the deal early.
Roush Fenway Racing officials cited a lack of performance as a reason for the move. Roush officials moved quickly once they found out that Buescher didn’t have an extension completed with JTG Daugherty Racing.
“I look forward to having cars that are more similar for both drivers that we can develop from race to race by not having so many wrecks,” car owner Jack Roush said Friday of a 2020 lineup with Buescher and Ryan Newman. “Ryan’s done really well about keeping his car together, and Chris has a history of doing the same thing.
“So we’re going to work on our cars to make them faster and to not be repairing them when they’re damaged. We’re gonna work on a consistent car that they both like, and I think we’ll have much better success.””
Stenhouse admits he’s had bouts of crashing in his career.
“I would say we’ve crashed, but I’ve lost brakes a lot of times, I’ve blown right-front tires a lot of times,” he said. “Obviously, those are wrecks. I’ve caused a couple myself, so, yeah, I definitely would say we’ve wrecked too much.”
Stenhouse said he’s gone through a variety of emotions since being informed of the team’s decision.
“Over the past two days I’d say I went angry, sad, optimistic, looking forward,” he said. “Sometimes change is good and like I said, it just didn’t work. It hadn’t been working over the last couple years. We’ve had speed. We just haven’t had consistent finishes. I think that’s what sucks for myself is I feel like we’ve had plenty of speed to get the job done. It’s just a lot of things came down to us not getting those results. Ultimately, that’s what we’re here for is results, and they weren’t coming.”
Stenhouse joined Roush Fenway Racing in 2009, running seven Xfinity races that season. He won two Xfinity titles for Roush and two Cup races. When he talked about those years and Roush, Stenhouse’s voice quivered.
“I’ve got to look back on the 11 years that I had with Jack and winning races and championships and getting my first Cup win and being competitive – not as consistent as what we wanted, but the end of it all, I’m very thankful that Jack took a chance on a dirt racer from Mississippi to come drive his car,” Stenhouse said.
“It was fun, a little emotional with the relationship Jack and I have. It’s the only team I’ve ever been at, so I’m looking forward to see what’s next. Like I said, there’s a lot of work to do on that, but, all in all, I’m definitely looking forward to these last eight with the great partners that we have, everybody on the 17 team. I’ve worked with a lot of them since my Nationwide days, so it will be tough, but it will be a fun eight races with them.”
Stenhouse and Roush talked Thursday night for the first time since the team’s decision. Stenhouse called it a good conversation.
“I waited to have that conversation with Jack because having it Wednesday probably wouldn’t have been a good idea, but Jack and I, we’ve had some knockdown-drag outs in the 11 years we’ve had together, but it was a good conversation,” Stenhouse said. “I thanked him for all the good times and the fun times that we had and look forward to see what’s next.”
He also added to NBC Sports: “I still feel like I’ve got unfinished business in this series.”