Thursday, Dec 07

Well, she has boyfriend, and his name is Richard. That’s right; Danica Patrick announced yesterday in an exclusive interview with Jenna Fryer, that she and fellow Sprint Cup Rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are now an item.


"I think I am just finally excited to tell someone about this," Patrick giggled. "We are dating, and I know there's been a bit of a runaround this week at the media days and poor Ricky got grilled," she said. "It was out of respect to NASCAR, to all the manufacturers, the new cars, the teams, the sponsors, just to allow the news of the day to be about racing and not let anything interfere with that. So, it's Friday now, so that's why we waited until the end of the week to be up front about each other."


Stenhouse, the two-time reigning Nationwide Series Champ, and Patrick, have been friends both on and off the track since she made the move to NASCAR in 2010. Stenhouse was sort of a mentor to Patrick as she made the transition from open-wheel racing and the two of them could often be found laughing and poking fun before the Nationwide races in 2012.


When asked about the relationship during the Media Tour, Stenhouse replied simply with “We have a great relationship,” then turned the focus back on racing. When Friday’s news hit, he had a different comment.


"Yes we are dating," he said. "I don't normally say too much about my private life, always been focused on the track. I didn't want to confirm at media day so that we could keep the focus on the season, the Gen-6, my sponsors and team. That's what it's all about for me."


Now you may be thinking, isn’t Patrick still married? Technically, yes. After announcing the split from her husband of 7 years, 47 year old Paul Hospenthal, in November, 30 year old Patrick filed for divorce in early January saying the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”  In the state of Arizona, where the two lived, it takes at least 60 days for a divorce to be finalized.


Immediately after Patrick announced her impending divorce, rumors started flying about her and 25 year old Stenhouse, with the bulk of them coming in the last few days. Both of them are known for keeping their private lives under lock and key, but they decided to make an exception and end speculation.


"I think that moving forward into the year, it's a matter of do you say anything at all, or do you just carry on?" she said. "As opposed to speculation and people making up their own stories or talking amongst themselves or us feeling uncomfortable walking into each other's (motorhomes) moving forward, or around our teams or anything, it's just easier to be up front and get it out of the way then to have any kind of awkward speculation."


With both of them moving to the Sprint Cup Series full time, many fans and drivers are probably wondering, will they race each other differently? Both Patrick and Stenhouse say no.

"Obviously, we've been racing together for a couple years now, him and I have always gotten along, Patrick said. “We've always had a lot of respect for each other on the track, there's never been an issue out there. I always say I'll race people how they race me until they do something to make me change my mind. I don't anticipate that changing at all, or us having any issues on the track."


Stenhouse agreed with her statement.


"It won't affect how I race on the track. I want to go out and win, I race everyone hard," he said.


Although Stewart-Haas Racing wouldn’t comment on the relationship, Roush Fenway President Steve Newmark said Friday that it is not a concern.


“Our drivers want to win,” he said. “They want to win races and championships and we have no worries about how hard any of them will race any other competitor on that track to reach those goals. Anyone that thinks that may be an issue for any of our drivers on the track doesn’t know our drivers very well.”


Scrolling through Twitter yesterday, this new power couple already has multiple celebrity couple names including “Danihouse” and “Stenica” as well has multiple jabs and jokes regarding their relationship.  


Patrick took to her personal Twitter page yesterday to address the comments saying, “Thanks everyone for all of your nice messages, and the bump drafting jokes are cracking me up! Let the fun begin.”


Patrick and Stenhouse are both battling for the coveted Rookie of the Year title this season.  This relationship just made the battle considerably more interesting.  Will this relationship change the outcome on the track? I guess for Rookies Danica Patrick and Richard Lynn Stenhouse, we will have to wait and see. 

2013 will be the first true battle for Rookie of the Year in a long time. With two high profile drivers moving from the Nationwide Series to the Sprint Cup Series full time, the battle for Rookie of the Year status might be just as exciting as the battle for the Championship trophy.

Two-time Nationwide Series Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr is one of the two drivers battling it out for the coveted Rookie of the Year honor. Stenhouse, driving for Roush Fenway Racing, will be in the number 17 Ford, taking over the ride from Matt Kenseth. Stenhouse only ran six Sprint Cup events in 2012 with his best finish being 12th at Dover International Speedway.

The 25 year old from Olive Branch, MS spent the last 13 weeks on the top of the Nationwide Series leaderboard in 2012 accumulating 6 wins, 19 top-five and 25 top-ten finishes. Stenhouse is definitely not afraid to get in there and race with the big boys. Look for him to be a contender at many of the tracks on the schedule. Stenhouse is a talented driver and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him win in his rookie season.

The other rookie this year is none other than Danica Patrick. After seven full seasons in the IndyCar Series and two partial schedules in NASCAR, Patrick decided to switch to a full NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule in 2012. With a best finish of 8th last season, her results were less than expected. Granted, in the opening race, where she sat on pole, her teammate wrecked her. Also, in Montreal, after leading 20 laps, she hit a shoe that had been thrown onto the track.

30 year old Patrick may be one of the most famous faces in racing, but she definitely has talent. Driving the number 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing this season, Patrick ran 10 Sprint Cup races in 2012 with her best finish being 17th in Phoenix. With Tony Gibson and his crew by her side as they enter 2013, look for Patrick to come out of the gate strong, especially on fast tracks and road courses. I don’t see her winning races this season, but I do see her consistently finishing in the Top-20 and maybe even a Top-10 or two. Patrick may be the lone female on the track, but she races like one of the boys.

Between Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Danica Patrick, this Rookie of the Year battle is going to be fun to watch. Stenhouse and Patrick are good friends away from the track which makes this battle just a little more interesting. So will the two-time Nationwide Series Champion come out on top once again or will the GoDaddy Girl come in and take the win? We will just have to wait and see. 


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