Southern dirt - thick and red, soggy and sloppy - moved Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the big leagues of American auto racing. He's gone from a youngster driving winged sprint cars in his native Mississippi land to navigating the most massive motorsports venues in the world as a 31-year-old Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver.
There were multiple stops in between, of course. Ricky went from the Southern-based United Sprint Car Series (USCS) to the popular nationwide levels of the United States Auto Club (USAC). Then, after he posted gaudy numbers in USAC and was named the top rookie in USAC's National Sprint and Midget Series in 2007, Roush Fenway Racing came calling to promote Ricky to the upper levels of stock car racing.
In 2008, Ricky barely missed a championship in the ARCA Racing Series, leading the points standings for 13 weeks before being carelessly knocked out in the season finale.
There were tough times in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series season of 2009, but Ricky rebounded and took the honor of the series' top rookie in 2010. The breakthrough came in May 2011, as Ricky and Roush Fenway's No. 6 Ford combined to earn their first Xfinity win at Iowa. The series championship followed, as did another in 2012.
That's back-to-back Xfinity championships in 2011 and 12 - peppered with eight victories, 35 top-five finishes and 52 top-ten finishes in those two seasons. Ricky became the sixth driver to win consecutive titles in NASCAR's stepping-stone series, earning him a shot in the famed No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Ricky took full advantage of the opportunity by earning three top-ten finishes, a top five and a pole in his first year on the circuit. Ricky was awarded the 2013 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year title and continued to work on his craft over the coming years.
In 2017, the Mississippi native delivered a breakout year, scoring his first-career Cup victory at Talladega and then following that with a second win at Daytona months later. He made his first appearance in the playoffs and concluded the year with a 13th-place points finish.
Outside of his NASCAR adventures, Stenhouse has remained committed to his dirt track roots. He co-owns Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, a World of Outlaws Sprint Car team that fields the NOS Energy Drink No. 17 for young hot shot, Sheldon Haudenschild. In his spare time, he still finds time to compete with the USAC Midgets, driving for Clauson-Marshall Racing at select off-season events, primarily the iconic Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.