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Danica, Stenhouse teams not worried about distractions

11:45 AM, Jan 25, 2013   |    comments
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Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. confirmed Friday they are in a romantic relationship while preparing to race each other at 200 mph every week for Sprint Cup rookie of the year.

Patrick, 30, drives for Stewart-Haas Racing, owned by three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart.

Stewart-Haas Racing spokesman Mike Arning told USA TODAY Sports the team doesn't comment on the personal lives of its personnel.

Patrick didn't have any further comment after confirming it in an Associated Press story Friday morning.

Spokesman David Higdon told USA TODAY Sports NASCAR had recently learned of the coupling.

"This relationship in no way violates any rules or regulations of the sport, so we have zero concerns, particularly since we're talking about two fiercely competitive individuals who both want to win NASCAR races and be the best at what they do," Higdon said.

Patrick tweeted Friday morning at 10 a.m.: "Thanks everyone for all of your nice messages, and the bump drafting jokes are cracking me up! Let the fun begin."

Her boyfriend, 25, retweeted her shortly after.

Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark told USA TODAY Sports the team that fields Stenhouse's No. 17 Ford was fine with the arrangement, provided it didn't impact the driver's performance.

"Our policy at Roush Fenway Racing has always been to let our drivers address their own personal lives," Newmark said. "We believe we have an extremely talented group of drivers who represent our partners in a first-class manner, and each of them is a fierce competitor on the track. Of course, we recognize that they have lives beyond the track, and we wish them the best in any of their personal relationships, but don't feel that it is our role as a race team to discuss those relationships. That said, we are always happy if our drivers are engaged in relationships that are meaningful to them, and will continue to support them, as any member of the Roush Fenway family, in whatever manner they request."

Newmark said the team didn't think it would have an impact on the results of Stenhouse, who also is moving into NASCAR's premier series after winning two consecutive Nationwide championships.

"Again without going into anyone's personal life, I think anyone that knows any of our drivers personally knows that each has a racer's mentality," Newmark said. "That they would wreck their own mother, sibling or significant other, to win a race. Our success as a multi-car organization stems from the fact that each of our drivers wants every spot on the racetrack, and one thing that we've seen is that they are always willing to do what it takes to get it.

"Our drivers want to win. 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."

Elizabeth Driscoll, a spokesman for Go Daddy, which has sponsored Patrick for several years in IndyCar and NASCAR, said ''we wish the best for Danica,'' but added the company doesn't comment on the personal lives of its spokespeople.

"I have a boyfriend, his name is Richard," Patrick said during an exclusive telephone interview with AP.

"I think I am just finally excited to tell someone about this," Patrick laughed, sounding almost giddy as she said the two-time Nationwide champion's middle name is Lynn and he prefers she use his first name.

Rumblings about the possible pairing had been going on for a while, and ramped up during the Sprint Media Tour in and around the Charlotte, N.C.-area this week. Both drivers dodged questions about their relationship -- Patrick on Monday and Stenhouse on Thursday.

"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 (with questions)," Patrick 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."

Michael Hickey, USA TODAY

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