Danica Patrick is the first woman since 1994 to secure the top qualifying spot
Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Danica Patrick has put to rest rumors that she and fellow NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are an item.
In a report published on Friday, Patrick told the Associated Press that "I have a boyfriend, his name is Richard." The 30-year-old Patrick later posted on her Twitter account, "Thanks everyone for all of your nice messages, and the bump drafting jokes are cracking me up! Let the fun begin."
Stenhouse, 25, also confirmed to AP that he and Patrick are dating. Both drivers waited to publicly reveal their relationship after this week's NASCAR media tour in Concord, NC. There had been recent rumors that Patrick and Stenhouse are a couple.
Both drivers are competing for 2013 rookie of the year honors in the Sprint Cup Series. Stenhouse won his second straight Nationwide Series championship this past season. He will drive the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing in Sprint Cup this year.
Patrick will be behind the wheel of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR's top division after she was honored as the most popular driver in Nationwide.
Stenhouse was asked several times during his media availability on Thursday about his relationship with Patrick.
"I don't like to talk too much about my personal life," he said. "We've got a great relationship. Obviously, it started when she first came into the sport. We were both going to rookie meetings (in Nationwide). It's been cool to work with her in the Nationwide Series. I felt like she could come to me for advice with the experience that I've had."
Earlier this month, Patrick filed for divorce from husband Paul Hospenthal, who is age 47, after a seven-year marriage. She announced their separation on her Facebook page in November.
Even though they are competitors, NASCAR does not have an issue with Patrick and Stenhouse's romantic relationship.
"This relationship in no way violates any rules or regulations of the sport, so we have zero concerns, particularly since we're talking about two fiercely competitive individuals who both want to win NASCAR races and be the best at what they do," NASCAR spokesman David Higdon told USA Today.
Last year, Patrick competed in 10 Sprint Cup races, while Stenhouse made four starts in the series.
"It's going to be fun racing her for rookie of the year," Stenhouse noted. "I want to win rookie of the year just as bad as she does."
The Sports Network