HOMESTEAD, Fla. ? Those hoping to find melodrama in Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle may be surprised to know it has never been a particularly intense or contemptuous part of their year-long romantic relationship.
For the most part, there weren't any friendly wagers or good-natured keeping score when they were away from the race track.
"Not much ribbing anymore, it's pretty obvious," Patrick said smiling Saturday, noting Stenhouse has wrapped up the rookie title.
If anything, she says, they were the ultimate support system for one another.
"I think that there was a certain level of sensitivity to it," Patrick said. "It was for sure a long shot for me. I mean it was going to need to be a really good rookie season.
"He (Stenhouse) just came off of two Nationwide championships. That was going to be tough to compete with no matter who you are. I struggled to compete for wins. It was going to be a huge accomplishment if I did it. We didn't really have too much banter about it I don't think. I think that it was just something that we didn't really talk about."
The scorecard was largely in Stenhouse's favor as you would expect considering he has a pair of NASCAR championships on his resume and Patrick is still transitioning to stock cars full time after a successful IndyCar career.
He is currently ranked 18th in the Cup standings with three top 10s and no DNFs in the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford, while Patrick's historic eighth place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 has been only top-10 in the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevy. She's ranked 27th entering Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale.
Through the ups and downs, she said Stenhouse was a good sounding board, helpful and encouraging.
"We talked a lot more about the cars and we talked a lot more about the team," Patrick said. "We talked a lot more about purely what happened that day. He spent a lot of time trying to cheer me up after I was so disappointed after qualifying or after a race sometimes.
"I think as he said, I don't remember what we were talking about, but I think it was just last night. Something about being hard on myself and he said 'she is hard enough on herself already; she doesn't need any more reason.' That pretty much sums it up. I am, I get frustrated and I know what I can do and want to do.
"When it doesn't happen I do get upset. He was good moral support."
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