Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse: Racing Competitors and Lovers

Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 11:25 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse's off-track relationship continues to flourish despite the young race car drivers competing against one another for top rookie honors in 2013.

Stenhouse was eventually named Cup Series Rookie of the Year, though Patrick reportedly received much of the attention throughout the year.

According to Fox Sports, neither Patrick nor Stenhouse had stellar rookie seasons, with Stenhouse posting one top-five and three top-10 finishes in 36 starts and Patrick having just one top-10 finish when she finished in eighth-place in the Daytona 500.

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"I was proud of what we did throughout the season, of getting better, qualifying better, having runs up front, leading laps throughout this year," Stenhouse told Fox Sports. "Thought we had a chance at winning some races there, at least being in contention. I was proud of those moments."

"We had a lot of bad moments we want to forget," Stenhouse added. "All in all, it was definitely a huge learning experience. . . Thankful we made it through; it's behind us now. We can move on to next year, look on improving every spot at every track that we can in the final points standings."

Patrick, who is the most popular and successful woman in auto racing, publicly acknowledged her long-rumored relationship with Stenhouse in February after she had filed to divorce from her now ex-husband Paul Hospenthal on Jan. 30, citing an "irretrievably broken" marriage, according to court documents obtained by ESPN.

Prior to the announcement, the pair, both of whom were Sprint Cup Series rookies, were often seen together at drivers meets and appearing in public at other race car events.

Following driver introductions at the Bristol Motor Speedway for a race in March, the 25-year-old Stenhouse referring to Patrick told a crowd, "Sorry guys, she's taken."

As for the 2103 Season, Patrick acknowledged the difficulties that accompanied competing for the Cup series.

"What is tough about the Cup (level) is that you can't be a little off," Patrick told Fox Sports. "The difference between a good and a bad weekend is so much bigger than in the Nationwide Series or anywhere else. The competition, the level of effort is so high. You have to always be on your game."

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"The biggest learning curve is usually the first year, so the most has been learned this year, and I just look forward to the results improving," Patrick added. "I look forward to better weekends and that with hard work will happen in return."

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