Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will be rivals for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in NASCAR Sprint Cup this year, have acknowledged publicly that they are dating in a report by the Associated Press.
“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,” Patrick said after facing repeated questioning on the subject during the NASCAR Media Tour. “It was out of respect to NASCAR, to all the manufacturers, the teams, the sponsors, just to allow all 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, 25, winner of thee past two Nationwide Series championships with Roush Fenway Racing, also acknowledged his relationship with Patrick to the AP, while Patrick announced it via Twitter on Friday. "Thanks everyone for all of your nice messages," she tweeted, "and the bump-drafting jokes are cracking me up!"
Patrick, 30, filed for divorce from husband Paul Hospenthal on Jan. 3.
Earlier this week during the Media Tour's stop at Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick said she is still working to put together a limited run of Nationwide Series races in addition to her full-season Cup run with Tony Stewart's team.
"Nothing's set in stone yet – we are working it, though, for sure," said Patrick, who has talked to Turner Scott Motorsports, among others, about NNWS opportunities. "I would love to do 10 Nationwide races. It think that would be our perfect plan, mostly to improve on my Cup experience and be able to learn from some of those races, some of them to have an opportunity to go out and win a race, and others just to get track experience.
"I think Daytona's looking pretty good, but, beyond that, we're still putting it together… I think the Nationwide Series is a great series, and I noticed that, when I did double duty those 10 times this past year, the Nationwide race really helped my Cup race – and the Nationwide practice helped my Cup practice."
Patrick added that she believes the transition to NASCAR's new Gen-6 race car might favor her driving style.
"I really enjoy high-grip tracks, and I think that getting a car that has more grip in it on these intermediate and short tracks is going to be a really good thing for me," Patrick said. "Obviously, I felt most comfortable at places like Texas or Vegas or somewhere like that…
"That's going to be a nice thing for me, especially on those hot days in the summer. Man, it's going to be nice to have some more downforce in those cars."
NASCAR Media Service contributed to this report.