Sten­house no longer the lesser half

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE -

Maybe now, Ricky Sten­house Jr. can be Ricky Sten­house Jr.

Maybe now, NASCAR fans will rec­og­nize Sten­house Jr. for his prow­ess in re­stric­tor-plate races af­ter com­plet­ing a Tal­ladega Day­tona dou­ble.

Maybe now, maybe, Sten­house can shed the la­bel of be­ing Mr. Dan­ica Pa­trick, the lesser half of the world’s most fa­mous fe­male race car driver.

If not now then when, writes Or­lando Sentinel columnist Ge­orge Diaz, in the af­ter­math of Sten­house’s vic­tory Satur­day night in the Coke Zero 400 at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

“Hence­forth,” Diaz writes, “Ricky Sten­house Jr. will no longer be known as ‘Dan­ica’s boyfriend.’

Sten­house dou­bled down on his May break­through vic­tory at NASCAR’s other famed re­stric­tor­plate oval, Tal­ladega, his first on the cir­cuit af­ter 158 at­tempts.

“He is his own man,” Diaz writes, “and there is no need to dis­miss him as a piece of eye candy hang­ing ‘round with Dan­ica Pa­trick.”

Sten­house, cur­rently 16th over­all in the points standings, has four top five fin­ishes in each of the past two sea­sons, eight more than the more cel­e­brated Pa­trick, who is cur­rently 29th NASCAR standings.

Pa­trick, as most know, broke in on the IndyCar cir­cuit, where she won a race and pro­ceeded to cash in off the track with en­dorse­ments and com­mer­cial suc­cess, be­fore head­ing to stock cars in 2013.

Diaz notes that Sten­house and Pa­trick “have been NASCAR’s of­fi­cial power cou­ple since 2013. They’ve hung tight de­spite the com­pet­i­tive dy­nam­ics. One of the things that has helped is their abil­ity to fo­cus on each other’s suc­cess, and to ‘cel­e­brate good days,’ as Dan­ica noted last year.”

Pa­trick cel­e­brated with Sten­house at Tal­ladega, af­ter get­ting knocked out of that race, and again Satur­day night, in street clothes af­ter a 25th-place fin­ish.

Pho­tog­ra­phers kept click­ing and Pa­trick kept grin­ning in vic­tory lane, where she stood next to Sten­house while wear­ing a “Coke Zero 400” hat, just like Sten­house.

“It’s a good look,” Diaz writes, “es­pe­cially for the guy fi­nally cast­ing an iden­tity in the sport be­yond the pa­parazzi feel of his per­sonal life.”

AP/TERRY RENNA

Af­ter win­ning the Coke Zero 400 Satur­day night at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way, one columnist wrote that Ricky Sten­house Jr. might have fi­nally stepped out of the shadow of Dan­ica Pa­trick, his more cel­e­brated girl­friend.

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