She’s now ‘Ricky’s girlfriend’
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. shakes free of the ‘Danica Patrick boyfriend’ label
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is flourishing and finishing fast these days. Danica Patrick is floundering, stuck in back-packers purgatory.
Theirs is a love story, NASCAR style, about two drivers who met on the job and decided to mix the professional and personal side of things.
“I have a boyfriend; his name is Richard,” Patrick said during an interview with the Associated Press in February 2013 when they went public with the romance.
The personal side of things has gone splendidly. The professional side is a bit bumpy.
Stenhouse made a last-lap pass in overtime Sunday at Talladega to put the squeeze on Kyle Busch and win for the first time in 158 career Cup starts.
Patrick was involved in the usual Talladega mumbo-jumbo with 19 laps to go, a massive Big One that took out 18 cars. Patrick slammed hard into an inside wall, though the incident was no fault of her own.
Still, it was literally another crushing blow during a season of hard knocks. Patrick dropped two spots in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings from 29th to 31st. She hasn’t been anywhere near the front in 10 races, a resume that includes the dreaded “DNF” (did not finish) four times.
Overall, Patrick has not won in 164 Cup starts over six years and is falling way short of the standard she set for her Stewart-Haas Racing team at the start of the season — to shoot for top 15 finishes.
“It’s important to be realistic, so to tell you to go out and win races and segments is not something I necessarily think is going to happen right away, but we’ll assess,” Patrick said in February. “We’ll assess how strong we are as a team.”
Meanwhile, Stenhouse is 12th in the standings, playoff ready, and looking solid. And whether the label is fair or not, the “Danica’s boyfriend” perception is no more.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said Sunday. “We’ve got a great relationship, just like anybody else does, and both of our main focus is to go out and run well and win races and do what we have to do to do that.
“She understands that I’m going to go to the shop a lot, and to have that support and her knowing where I’m coming from is great to have. I don’t mind being known as her boyfriend. She doesn’t mind being known as my girlfriend. Either way, it goes either way, and we couldn’t be in a better place right now.”
They have managed to mix work and pleasure. They have equal custody of two dogs. Come weekends, they spend their time together in a motorhome, dogs in tow.
If Ricky’s girlfriend can get up to speed, this could be the start of something big.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. kisses his girlfriend, Danica Patrick, in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 7.