The battle for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors took an interesting twist Thursday as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sidestepped questions about a rumored relationship with on-track rival Danica Patrick.
Stenhouse, the two-time defending Nationwide Series champion who is moving up to the Sprint Cup Series ranks this year with Roush Fenway Racing, did his best to avoid the conversation when asked about it by reporters.
“I don't like to talk too much about my personal life,” the 25-year-old Stenhouse said during the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I think this week is about Roush Fenway, the Gen-6 (car), our sponsors and our season that we're looking ahead to.”
Mark your calendars now and get ready to "reach up and pull those belts down tight one more time!" The Daytona 500 on FOX is set for Feb. 24, 2013.
Patrick, who moved to NASCAR full-time last year competing in the Nationwide Series, will also be moving up to the Sprint Cup Series this year driving for Stewart-Haas Racing.
“It's going to be fun racing her in Rookie of the Year,” Stenhouse said. “I think it's going to be very exciting. I've never raced a friend for a championship, for Rookie of the Year."
Rumors have been circulating about the pair since Patrick, 30, announced she was divorcing Paul Hospenthal via her Facebook page Nov. 20, citing an “irretrievably broken” marriage in court documents filed Jan. 3 in Arizona.
Stenhouse did confirm that he and Patrick attended a Professional Bull Riders event this past weekend along with a group of friends, adding that he thought it was “her first rodeo ever.”