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Tuesday, June 9, 2009
From horsepower to bull power

By Keith Ryan Cartwright
Courtesy PBR

PUEBLO, Colo. — Usually when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks about running, the 21-year-old up-and-coming NASCAR driver is talking about his car.

But last week when J.B. Mauney and Shane Proctor told the Mississippi native he needed to run to the fence as fast as he could, they weren't referring to an auto in the Nationwide Series.

The brothers-in-law were instructing Stenhouse, who said he likes to live life "wide open," to get on his feet and literally run to safety.

"It jumped around and kicked and did all that," he recalled, "and then I was on the ground and I ran to the fence."

The "it" he is referring to is a bull.

"I knew where I was, and that was one of the things that J.B. and Shane had told me, was when you land, get to the fence as quick as possible, and if it runs at you don't run in a straight line, kind of zigzag a little bit."

With just 30 minutes' worth of instruction, Stenhouse fulfilled his wish of riding a bull. With ESPN there to capture the entire experience, he attempted to make the 8-second whistle not once, but twice.

"J.B. and Shane tried to teach me how to ride a bull," said Stenhouse, in a Podcast interview posted at www.pbr.tv. "They did their job, but I don't think I did my job. …It was definitely a lot tougher than they make it look, but it was a lot of fun."

According to Stenhouse, he stayed on his first bull for about six seconds, and while he didn't last as long on his second attempt, he said he felt "more comfortable."

His first out went by so fast "I didn't really have a clue what happened," he said. The only thing he remembers from the first six-second ride was having his hand in the bull rope, and knowing he was on the bull.

The second time, however, he could remember the direction change the bull made, and he had a better feel for what he was supposed to be doing — he just didn't execute the countermoves.

Until last week, Stenhouse, a PBR fan who's been to several Built Ford Tough Series events the past two seasons, had never been on a bull.

He chatted with Mauney and Proctor for about 30 minutes, watched each of them ride twice, and "then they just put me on and showed me how to tie my hand in and told me to hang on."

"I was wanting to nod my head as quick as I could, because I've seen those bulls get loose in the chutes and that's definitely not good."

"I did everything they said," Stenhouse continued. "I just didn't hang on for eight seconds."

The entire experience came about after Stenhouse was asked by ESPN about the one thing in life he hadn't yet done. When he told them "I want to ride a bull," the wheels were put in motion and the folks at Roush Fenway Racing contacted the PBR.

Fans of NASCAR and the PBR can watch the experience during a prerace feature prior to the Saturday, June 13 broadcast of the Meiji 300 presented by Ritz from the Kentucky Speedway.

"I'd like to do it again," he said, "but I probably need to wait until racing season's over."

According to his online bio, Stenhouse has been racing for 15 years, and is one of Roush Fenway Racing's up-and-coming drivers. He made a name for himself in 2007 when he drove for Tony Stewart Racing in the USAC (United States Auto Club) National Sprint Car and USAC National Midget Series at events across the United States.

Stenhouse left a mark in the history books when he took home five Midget wins and two Sprint wins while on his way to becoming Rookie of the Year in the USAC National Midget and Sprint Car Series. He was only the second driver to win both accolades in the same year.

In 2008, the standout from Olive Branch, Miss., took the ARCA RE/MAX Series by storm, claiming his first stock car win in only his sixth career start.

The stand-out also led the points for 13 weeks before entering into one of the closest championship battles in ARCA history. He closed out the year with two wins, three poles and fourth place in the point standings. The tenacious driver will now make his foray into the Nationwide Series running a part-time schedule for Roush Fenway Racing.

Watch it: June 13 on ESPN2 beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Stenhouse will be driving the No. 16 CitiFinancial car.