Stenhouse Jr. answers questions about Danica Patrick

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. met with media and discussed her outlook for the 2031 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, his relationship with driver Danica Patrick, and other topics.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Best Buy Fusion

HAVE THINGS CHANGED FOR YOU OUT IN PUBLIC SINCE YOU AND DANICA ACKNOWLEDGED YOUR RELATIONSHIP? "No, it hasn’t really changed. Not many people notice me out there. It has been fine. I have been spending most of my time in the shop though. I don’t go out a ton. Everything has been good. Everything is great.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

WHAT DID YOU GET HER FOR VALENTINES DAY? "I got her some fancy playing cards. She likes to play cards a lot. She has been teaching me some of her card games and beating me at them so I have to get better. I bought some cards so I could practice.”

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST DATE? "We never really had like a first date. She kind of told me to ask her out so I asked her out on a date and we went to dinner. I should probably remember where we went but I can’t remember.”

DO YOU THINK IT WILL AFFECT THE WAY YOU RACE? DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WATCHING WHEN YOU RACE AROUND EACH OTHER WILL GET OLD? "I think for everybody to assume it is going to make me race any different is wrong. It’s not going to. I am respectful to my teammates and I will be respectful to her, but I am respectful to everyone on the race track. I don’t feel like if somebody crashes her I am going to go crash them because of it. I am out there to do my job. I am out there to put on the best performance I can for my sponsors and my team and my fans. I can’t get caught up in any of that. She has been racing for a long time and can handle that situation and I will handle mine. You are probably going to give her a break but it is nothing other than a teammate.”

DO YOU VIEW HER AS A ROOKIE GIVEN HER EXPERIENCE AND YOURSELF AS WELL FOR THAT MATTER? "Yeah, I think so. Anytime you step into a new car and a new series it gets a little difficult. You have a lot more to learn and the cars drive different. She does have more experience in this car, so she has the upper hand in the Rookie of the Year battle. I told her I was going to win. At least we both get to go to the banquet right? I think she definitely is a rookie and I believe I am too.”

YOU SAID YOU WOULD RACE HER AS A TEAMMATE, BUT YOU AREN’T TEAMMATES. "Yeah, I mean I am going to be respectful to her. I have always raced her clean but I feel like I have raced everybody clean. It isn’t like I am going to drive anybody different. I try to give respect to everybody on the race track, no matter who it is, teammate or not. Teammates you give more respect to but along those lines I was saying if someone wrecks one of my teammates I am not going to go wreck them. Same with her. I am not going to retaliate. I have a job to do.”

YOU SEEM LIKE A VERY PRIVATE PERSON. DID YOU HAVE TO MENTALLY PREPARE FOR DEALING WITH THESE QUESTIONS? "Yeah, it is part of it obviously. I think that people question whether you all should report on it or not. Obviously it is a big story. It isn’t my most important story. I am here to race but it is something that you are going to have to deal with and just move on. I think once the season gets going and we can talk about how great this Gen 6 car is going to be and how great the racing is going to be, hopefully it can take a back seat and we can focus on our racing.”

IT IS A BIG STORY IN A LOT OF WAYS BECAUSE IT IS HER. DO YOU WORRY THAT WILL OVER SHADOW WHAT YOU DO ON THE TRACK? "Yeah, the headlines don’t say anything about me. That is cool. I see what you are saying but I am going to take it seriously. If I win a race and it says Danica’s boyfriend wins the race, I don’t know how that will work out. Everybody at Roush Fenway, Zest, Fifth Third, Best Buy, NOS, everybody knows that I am a serious racer and I am here to do the best job for them. Jack doesn’t have any concern on it. My teammates don’t have a concern over it and neither does my team working on the 17 car. Really that is all my concern is, those guys around us putting in the same effort that I do.”

YOU ARE THE TWO-TIME NATIONWIDE CHAMPION. DOES IT BOTHER YOU AT ALL THAT YOU ARE GETTING ASKED ALL ABOUT DANICA AND NOT YOUR OWN ACCOMPLISHMENTS? "It doesn’t bother me. I know it is a big story and people have been waiting to talk about it, waiting to ask about it. I think it is a cool opportunity for me to come into Matt’s (Kenseth) number with a totally different team and because of the story people don’t realize it is a different crew chief, team and over the wall guys. The only thing the same is the number and the sponsors. I think we have accomplished a lot in NASCAR in the Nationwide series and to think that is going to translate right over to the Sprint Cup Series the first year is a little difficult. I think we are capable of doing that though and that is the plan. At the end of the season we want to be talking about our performance.”

DANICA HAS BEEN IN THE PUBLIC EYE SO LONG, HAS SHE TALKED TO YOU ABOUT HOW IT WILL BE? "We have talked about it. She can definitely help out with that because she has experienced a lot of it. You all don’t get to me and it doesn’t bother me what you say. I don’t read articles so it doesn’t really bother me. She knows I spend my time at the shop and focused on our racing. She helps out with that because she has experienced a lot and that has been helpful.”

SHE SEEMED TO BE ALMOST BASKING IN THE YOU AND HER STUFF THIS MORNING. SHE WAS RIGHT ON HER GAME. "Well we are happy and that is good right? I feel like what I have learned in my career in racing is that anytime you are happy off the race track it tends to show up on the race track. That is one good thing that we have going. We are both happy, we are focused on racing and having fun.”

KESELOWSKI SAID IT ISN’T WHAT THEY DO IF THEY ARE DATING IT IS WHAT THEY DO IF THEY BREAK UP. IS THAT INSULTING TO YOU? "Coming from someone that has never had a girlfriend? Sorry, go ahead.” I GUESS THE QUESTION IS THAT HE IMPLIES IF YOU WERE ANGRY WITH EACH OTHER DOWN THE LINE THAT IT COULD IMPACT THE WAY YOU RACE. "I think with anybody that has a relationship whether they are in the sport or not, if you are having problems in the relationship it shows up on the race track no matter who you are. I think he has a point that it does matter if things are going well or not but I think that has to do with anybody. I could be dating somebody that is never at the race track and if you are having problems then it definitely shows up in your work. It doesn’t matter who it is.”

MARK MARTIN SAYS IF SHE STARTING BEATING YOU HE WILL FEEL SORRY FOR YOU. WHAT WOULD THAT BE LIKE IF SHE STARTS BEATING YOU EVERY RACE? "Well, that wouldn’t be good. If we are finishing 1-2 then it would be fine but I think we both have a lot to learn and it is going to be tough for both of us. Obviously the more media I have – she has always had it – you get criticized. I have noticed that with her coming through the Nationwide Series. You get criticized in not performing well. In 2010 I got hammered pretty hard for crashing all the time and not performing. I was able to look past that and keep going.”

HAVE YOU EVER, THROUGH ANY RACING SERIES, BEEN REALLY CLOSE FRIENDS WITH SOMEBODY AND HOW DID THAT RELATIONSHIP PAN OUT ON THE TRACK? ALSO, ONE MOTOR COACH OR TWO? "Two. You know, Trevor and I are great friends and we were racing for a championship and were one-point separated when he got sick. If you ask him and ask me and go back and watch we raced really hard on the race track. We were respectful and gave ourselves enough room. Off the track we hung out all the time and I think that is just part of it. I think there are a lot of drivers in the garage that are good friends off the track that go out and race hard. We both still have a job to do.”

WHAT NICKNAME DO YOU GUYS PREFER? "I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. I am not going to use any of those hash tags so whatever you all want.”

HAS ANYONE FROM THE BUSINESS OR MARKETING THINGS TALKED TO YOU ABOUT DOING THINGS TOGETHER? "No, they have not. This off season has been busy with going to our sponsors Best Buy and everybody. I did a new hire orientation at Best Buy and that was fun. Nobody has talked about anything with the two of us.”

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO EACH OTHER? "Is that a question, really?” WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT HER? "She is hot! No, we have had a friendship for a long time and I can’t cook and she can. She loves to cook, so that is nice and I love to eat. We get a long really well. I have never had someone that I can talk racing with and I wasn’t 100-percent sure how I would like that but I have enjoyed it. I think we can learn a lot from each other and be successful.”

ARE YOU RELIEVED THIS IS OUT IN THE OPEN? "Yeah, it is fun. It was obviously going to come out sometime.”

WILL FOLKS BE ABLE TO FOLLOW YOUR EXPLOITS ON TWITTER? "Probably not too much. Maybe a little here and there. I think fans still like to know what is going on and that is what we do Twitter for, to engage the fans and let them know what is going on. Most fans seem to be interested in it. Then again, I don’t want to blow up peoples Twitter feeds with it. We will be respectful to everybody.”

THIS IS A BIG RACE COMING UP, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500? "I am excited about the race. Testing was great here. The things they have done with the Gen 6 car for driving here at Datyona, set up is going to be key. The track is getting a little older so the grip level is going down and the down force on the car isn’t very much. The cars are dancing around a lot and I think you are going to have to have a good driving race car. In the past that has produced really good races here at Datyona. Right before they paved the race track that was some of the coolest racing that we went to. It is going to get back to that. I think NASCAR has done a great job with it. The 500 is going to be exciting and hopefully we can get this done with this week and talk about the Daytona 500.”

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THE SEASON? "I haven’t had specific goals that I’ve set for the season but I don’t think it is past us to go win races. We are going to go out each and every week – I had a team meeting with the guys yesterday before I came down and I wanted them to know that I was going to the race track prepared to win every week. If you don’t prepare to win every week you will never achieve it. I wanted them all on the same page. I feel confident in the crew guys and the race car we have put together. The test has been great. We have tested all kinds of tracks and I feel really comfortable in the race car. I think if we can be smooth the first 10 races and really not have any big issues and evaluate where we are and go from there it will set up the rest of the season off of that after the first 10.”

JUST TO BE ON THE RECORD. IF YOU ARE RUNNING THIRD ON THE LAST LAP AT DAYTONA WITH TWO CARS IN FRONT OF YOU. DANICA IS ONE SIDE AND A TEAMMATE ON THE OTHER. WHICH CAR DO YOU GET BEHIND? "At Daytona there is enough room for three, so I am going three wide. That is a good scenario. I hope we win.”

RUSTY WALLACE TALKED ABOUT AT A YOUNG AGE BEING COCKY. DO YOU THINK PEOPLE MIGHT SAY YOU EXUDE CONFIDENCE? "I think at the beginning at 2010 they could say I didn’t have any confidence. I think it is to a point. I can definitely see what he says about looking back but mainly I think you can be cocky and still be respectful to everybody else at the same time. I feel confident in my ability and confident in the ability of our race teams. I think you have to have confidence to be a little cocky. You have to be respectful at the same time though. That is a tough thing to balance but listening to that it is nice knowing that people want to look back and wish they weren’t so cocky. You try to balance that and still be respectful.”

DID YOU HAVE ANY HESITATION DATING DANICA WITH THE WHOLE CHEVY VS. FORD ANGEL OR THE FACT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE RIVALS OUT THERE? "No, not really. There wasn’t really any hesitation. I think that you are excited about it at first. You are ready to go and it is exciting and then you think about how everybody is going to take it. What are the fans going to think? What will other drivers think? I think it has been fairly good. Everyone has been pretty supportive of it. I wasn’t too nervous about it. Maybe a little bit though.”

DID YOU MAKE IT TO FENWAY PARK LAST YEAR? "I went to a sponsor summit there but wasn’t able to go to the game.”

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE SUPPORT YOU ARE GETTING FROM THE FENWAY END OF THINGS GIVEN THEIR SOCCER AND BASEBALL OBLIGATIONS? "Yeah, they are passionate about Roush Fenway and definitely are working closely with Jack to help the sponsorship side of things and help the things they can help with. They don’t know about our competition side to really contribute to that they way they know their baseball and soccer but they are huge supporters. John Henry is a cool part-owner to have. I think anytime you can be associated with a team like Roush Fenway, the Red Sox it is a big opportunity for us.”

Ford Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Eric Gilbert , Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Roush Fenway Racing
Article type Press conference
Tags danica, daytona, ford, nascar-cup, patrick, stenhouse