Stenhouse focused on racing after Patrick hit

  • Article by: STEPHEN HAWKINS
  • Associated Press
  • March 4, 2013 - 7:41 PM

FORT WORTH, Texas - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. saw sheet metal and other parts of the No. 10 Chevrolet strewn across the track and knew Danica Patrick had taken a hard hit in Phoenix.

Stenhouse never asked his crew about the status of the fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie driver he's dating.

"I felt like they would have told me if she would have been hurt," Stenhouse said Monday during media day at Texas Motor Speedway. "But I feel like NASCAR has done a really good job, especially with this Gen-6 car, at making them safe, so I really wasn't too worried."

Stenhouse said he and Patrick have talked before about taking big hits in racecars, such as the one Patrick had Sunday.

While they confirmed earlier this year that they're dating, they're also competitors on different Cup teams and both vying for rookie of the year honors.

"Like I've been telling people from the start of this, when we're on the racetrack, we're focused on what we're doing. And that was no different (Sunday)," Stenhouse said.

"I was focused on my racecar, I was focused on under that caution talking to my crew chief about making our racecar better. Like the media has been asking, how is it going to affect your on-track performance? It's not going to, her side or my side."

Patrick, coming off an eighth-place finish at the season-opening Daytona 500, blew a front right tire coming around turn 4 with about 100 laps left at Phoenix.

Her car slammed into the wall, careened back onto the track and was hit hard again by David Ragan, flipping her hood over the windshield and shredding the left front fender as protective foam flew from the driver's side door.

Patrick coasted to a stop near the inside wall and climbed out of her car. She quickly cleared by the infield care center, and finished 39th — 23 spots behind Stenhouse.

During the introductory portion of TMS media day, Stenhouse was asked about his life off the track.

"The golf game's great off the track," Stenhouse quickly responded with a smile before addressing his relationship with Patrick.

"There are lots of people who are paying attention to her and I guess they're paying attention to me now," Stenhouse said.

"That's been a little different. But all in all, it's been very good. Things have been great on that side of things. We're batting for rookie of the year. It's going to be a lot of fun. I told her I was going to win so I've got to hold my end up on that."

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