Danica Patrick Dating Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Brings Romance To Daytona 500 As Great American Race Kicks Off NASCAR Sprint Cup Season

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Feb 24, 2013 03:32 PM EST
 Danica Patrick and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Danica Patrick has been making headlines all season on NASCAR after winning the pole and leading laps at the Daytona 500 and she continued that trend in Las Vegas, as she was knocked in the head by a rock at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway ahead of Sunday's race.(Photo : Reuters) "

Danica Patrick has had all the attention leading up to the Daytona 500 and it isn't just because she became the first woman in the history of the sport to win the pole, but because she will be racing against her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all season on the track.

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Patrick and Stenhouse confirmed their relationship some time ago and during media day last week at Daytona International Speedway

The two have been friendly with each other for a long time since racing against one another on the Nationwide circuit and espnW.com did a story last year during the summer about their budding friendship, having no idea the two would become a romantic item down the line.

"We would always have rookie meetings together and they were always kind of full, so I would get up and give her my seat," Stenhouse recalled to ESPN.com. "That's just kind of how we met and how we became friends, and any time she asked for help, I'm there to give her help as much as I can. It's a good relationship."

Stenhouse has won two straight Nationwide titles, while Patrick had the best finish of her career last season by coming in 10th place in the standings before moving to the sprint Cup full time. She won one pole last year while starting 33 races and she also finished 17th at the Sprint Cup race in Phoenix.

"We got along from the very beginning," Patrick said. "He's really respectful. He wants to help me. He makes me trust him. There's no bad intent. He's just protective and nice, a really good friend."

Patrick was seen hugging Stenhouse before the race last week for the Duels and last year she made 10 Sprint Cup starts to prepare for the full time racing this year. The couple first went public earlier in February at the Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour and spke about how they started off as friends, but later on it turned into a romantic relationship.

"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)," she 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."

Patrick is one of the most recognizable drivers in the world and she won the most popular driver award last season on the Nationwide Series circuit. Patrick filed for divorce earlier this year from her husband and clearly she has moved on now with her new relationship.

The two will be battling for rookie of the year on the Sprint Cup circuit and their first true test will be at the Daytona 500, where Patrick will ride in the number one spot, while Stenhouse will start from 28th position.

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