Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will pilot the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford next season with continued support from sponsors Best Buy, Fifth Third Bank and Zest.
Best Buy will support Stenhouse in 12 races and also sponsor teammate Carl Edwards’ effort for four races next year. A crew chief for Stenhouse’s Sprint Cup campaign for rookie of the year has yet to be determined.
Stenhouse Jr., 24, won the 2011 Nationwide Series championship, and — after Saturday’s Nationwide win at Chicagoland — leads in the standings in his third full season on the tour. While it was announced in June that Stenhouse would graduate to Sprint Cup in 2013, he’s “honored” to race with the former championship team that will be vacated by Matt Kenseth at season’s end.
“I feel good that they have the confidence in me to be able to come in and run a car like that,” said Stenhouse, whose win Saturday was his fifth of the season on the Nationwide tour.
“I am honored to have that and to have Best Buy come back – I was kind of shocked. To be with a company that I support and that I believe in and use their products and shop in their stores, I think that is really cool to be associated with someone like that. I know that they have had a great season with Matt and we are looking to continue that next year and run for the Rookie of the Year next year.
“To be a teammate to Carl and Greg (Biffle) is going to be a lot of fun on the Cup side. I will be leaning on those guys quite a bit to get these cars figured out. We have had success in the Nationwide Series but it will be a tough road ahead. I think we are up for the challenge and looking forward to continuing our growth with Best Buy and our teammates to run up front next year.”
Edwards has had the opportunity to compete against Stenhouse in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup races. Edwards says Stenhouse, who finished 11th in his Cup debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway, will be “a force in the sport.”
“Today is officially the beginning of a new era for our sport to have Ricky in the car,” Edwards said. “He says he is going to lean on us a little bit. I hope he means figuratively. He is a hard racer and we have had a lot of good races together. It is going to be very exciting to have Ricky in the 17 car.”
Team owner Jack Roush feels 2013 will be “an exciting transition” for Stenhouse. Similar to Edwards and Roush Fenway veteran Biffle, Stenhouse also came through the company’s farm system.
“We take great pride in driver development, and it is rewarding for all involved any time we are able to watch one of our young men grow and progress,” Roush said. “We have seen Ricky develop into a NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, and now his career path comes to fruition in the Sprint Cup Series next season.
“I can’t think of a better fit for Ricky than the No. 17 team. Ricky will have the luxury of being flanked by a championship-level team from the start. His drive, determination and commitment to winning will mesh very well with the demeanor of the No. 17 team. It will be our job to put him in the best equipment possible, as well as to guide him through the learning curves that are part of his rookie season.”