Thursday, April 13, 2017

Why Three #NASCAR Drivers are Trying to ‘Conquer’ ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Why Three #NASCAR Drivers are Trying to ‘Conquer’ ‘American Ninja Warrior’

By Ryan Blaney
Why Three #NASCAR Drivers are Trying to ‘Conquer’ ‘American Ninja Warrior’
Ryan Blaney

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. really wants to be a ninja.

The NASCAR driver tried his hand at American Ninja Warrior’s absurdly intense obstacle course in a qualifying round in Indianapolis last season. And while he definitely made it farther than most people would, he’s hungry for another shot at advancing to the finals in front of the energized crowd.

With a new perspective on the course, the 29-year-old driver is returning to American Ninja Warrior for the show’s ninth season to see if he’ll have more success. And this time around, he’ll be joined by fellow Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney and XFINITY Series driver Ben Kennedy.

“I just wanted another crack at it,” Stenhouse said via email. “With other NASCAR drivers doing it, I thought we would have a good time together. Last year the (IndyCar) guys had a lot of fun competing together so I’m looking forward to having Ryan there as well.”

Last season, IndyCar was well-represented with drivers Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden competing alongside Stenhouse. And a couple weeks ago, IndyCar driver Conor Daly attempted the San Antonio course.

On the NASCAR side, Kennedy’s up first, shooting his attempt this weekend in Daytona, Florida – set to air June 26 – while both Stenhouse and Blaney will hit the Cleveland course for the May 8th and 9th taping – which will air July 3.

Stenhouse – the driver of the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing – said he had every intention of building a few obstacles to train with at his house, but his “super slammed” schedule prevented that from happening. He’s already in fantastic shape for racing, but he’ll be forced to rely mostly on his past American Ninja Warrior experience.

“I think last year I was really worried about falling off that log so much that I just eventually fell off,” Stenhouse said. “It’s just as much mental as it is strength, so I need to go in with the mindset that I’m going to conquer all the obstacles. I haven’t been to any training facilities yet, but hopefully I can go to a few before tryouts.”

Why Three #NASCAR Drivers are Trying to ‘Conquer’ ‘American Ninja Warrior’

As for Blaney, the 23-year-old driver of the No. 21 Ford has youth on his side and said he watches American Ninja Warrior “a lot” and wants to know how he’ll handle the crazy course. Twenty-five-year-old Kennedy echoed Blaney’s perspective.

“I thought it’d be cool to try and do and put my athletic skills to the test,” Blaney said via email. “Being a driver we need to be in shape – have fast reflexes – and this is one of the ultimate tests and I’m excited for the challenge to complete.”

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