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Danica reveals she's dating fellow Cup driver

Although Stenhouse himself confirmed to the AP on Friday that "Yes, we are dating," the 25-year-old has otherwise refrained from commenting. When he'd been pressed for details by reporters the previous day at the Roush Fenway media session after rumours had spiked following press sightings of the two of them (together with a group of friends) attending a Professional Bull Riders event last weekend, he'd kept it as light and vague as possible.

"We've got a great relationship," Stenhouse had said on Thursday. "Obviously that started when she first came into the sport. We were both going to rookie meetings. It's been cool to work with her in the Nationwide Series. I felt she could come to me for advice with the experience that I've had." In turn, Patrick was able to use her media savvy to persuade the Mississippi-born Stenhouse to finally get a decent haircut and drop the rather embarrassing mullet he'd been sporting up till then.

But now the two are officially an 'item', does it throw up any larger issues for them competing against each other in this year's Sprint Cup battle where both are running their maiden full-season campaigns in the championship, and will be fighting head to head for the rookie of the year title? Moreover, they won't even be team mates on track: Patrick is racing for Stewart-Haas while Stenhouse is moving into Matt Kenseth's old seat in the #17 for Roush Fenway. So what happens when they have to choose between each other and their official team mates? Will either one of them pull their punches where the other is concerned? Will it blunt their competitive edge and prove a distraction?

"I don't think their competitive decisions are going to be challenged very much by their off-track relationship," said fellow driver Landon Cassill, who has raced both Patrick and Stenhouse in the last year He pointed out that it was no different from having other family members (like the Dillon, Busch and Wallace brothers) competing in the same race for different teams.

"There won't be many laps go by that he won't be thinking, 'Where's Danica?'", Rusty Wallace told ESPN SportsCenter about his own experiences racing family in NASCAR. "Found myself looking at them all the time. I definitely had emotions racing against my brothers."

"Ricky might choose Danica over me in a drafting situation, but that's fine," Cassill told USA Today, adding that the Wild West sensibility of doing 'anything to win' was actually one of the most appealing aspects of the sport. "If drafting at Daytona with your girlfriend is what it takes to win, there will not be an asterisk next to the trophy," he pointed out.

For her part, Patrick said that once they hit the track it would be business as usual, pointing out that they'd raced against each other for two years with no problems and that they had always got along.

"We've always had a lot of respect for each other on the track, there's never been an issue out there," she insisted. "I always say I'll race people how they race me until they do something to make me change my mind. I don't anticipate that changing at all, or us having any issues on the track."

As far as Roush Fenway is concerned, all this is none of the team's business as long as the drivers get on and do their job: "Our policy at Roush Fenway Racing has always been to let our drivers address their own personal lives," said RFR president Steve Newmark. "We recognise 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."

You could almost hear the team sprinting as fast and as far away from the story as they could get, and the same sense of hasty decorum was evident from the official NASCAR reaction to the news as well.




Related Pictures

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Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick of Stewart Haas Racing on January 21, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver for Roush Fenway Racing, speaks to the media during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour on January 24, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Danica Patrick of Stewart Haas Racing on January 21, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and last week`s race winner at Las Vegas, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., gets ready for practice on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. (Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Cargill Ford, celebrates after winning back-to-back Nationwide series championships after the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2012 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, signs the Coors Light Pole Award board after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Sam`s Club/Cargill Ford, prepare for practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Inaugural Indy 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick share a light moment as they sign autographs for fans at Iowa Speedway on Saturday in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin and Darian Grubb, the crew chief of the #11 Joe Gibb Racing Toyota, consult in the garage area during testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, July 27, 2014 the Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gordon, who leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings, has won at the Brickyard a record 5 times, the first one in 1994. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, July 27, 2014 the Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gordon, who leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings, has won at the Brickyard a record 5 times, the first one in 1994. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win Sunday, July 27, 2014 of the Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gordon, who leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings, has won at the Brickyard a record 5 times, the first one in 1994. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, kisses the Brick after his win Sunday, July 27, 2014 of the Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gordon, who leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings, has won at the Brickyard a record 5 times, the first one in 1994. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
The #24 Axalta Chevrolet crew celebrates in pit lane after driver Jeff Godron`s victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, salutes the fans after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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