Stenhouse no longer the lesser half
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.”
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.