DUQUOIN, Ill. — official series release — Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America photo —
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will return to his short-track, open-wheel roots Saturday to race in the fifth annual Great Clips Battle at the Center presented by K & N Filers on the one-sixth Mini-Magic Mile at the Southern Illinois Center on the grounds of the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fair.
It will be Stenhouse’s second Battle at the Center, a non-points all-star-type event organized by the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series. The 27-year-old from Olive Branch, Miss., finished second at Du Quoin to Casey Shuman in 2010.
Stenhouse will drive for Bryan Clauson Racing to prepare him for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla., held from Jan. 12-17. Stenhouse finished ninth in the championship feature in 2012, but failed to make it out of the B feature last year.
“We’re always trying to get him up here for the Battle at the Center to get him in the car and get him in the car before Tulsa (Chili Bowl) and hit the ground running,” Clauson said. “He needs to get the rust off in a midget. This year, his schedule allowed him to do it.”
Stenhouse drove sprint cars in his native Mississippi before Tony Stewart hired him to drive for his USAC operation in 2007. Stenhouse had five Honda USAC National Midget victories and two USAC National Sprint Car wins that season, which led to opportunities in stock cars in 2008.
Stenhouse became NASCAR’s Nationwide Series champion in 2011 and 2012 with Roush Fenway Racing, which promoted him to its Sprint Cup operation the next season. He was NASCAR’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year in 2013 and spent another full season in Cup with Roush Fenway in 2014.
CREDIT: POWRi Racing