NASCAR

Stenhouse in hot water with Danica

Image: Danica Patrick & Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (© Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Danica Patrick (left) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were in the same crash.
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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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DOVER, Del.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. found himself in the doghouse last Sunday not only with his girlfriend Danica Patrick, but also with his former car owner — and her current car owner — Tony Stewart.

Although Patrick believes that Brad Keselowski triggered the Lap 319 incident in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway — since he acknowledged not knowing he was three-wide with the Nos. 10 of Patrick and 17 of Stenhouse — she also took issue with Stenhouse running into her on Sunday night while racing for the beneficiary position after falling from the lead lap.

“At the end of the day, he probably could have gotten out of it because he was a couple laps down,” Patrick said. “But I get it, we’re always racing hard and he still made something of his day from a couple laps down. I get racing hard, but we were racing for the lucky dog. So we were going for it, too.”

Patrick ended up in the garage for repairs but returned to the track and finished 29th, 15 laps down. Stenhouse continued his course and finished 14th — but not before igniting the ire of Stewart, who blamed the rookie for blocking him.

Stewart told Sirius XM Racing after the race, "Ricky Stenhouse, I'd choke him right now if I could get to him and I love that kid like he’s family." Stewart threatened to “get out of bed early enough” and come to a rookie meeting to ascertain whether racing etiquette is still being taught.

When asked about the comment, Patrick replied with a laugh, “Don’t you want to choke your kids every now and again? Everybody wants to choke their kids or their dad or their son or their significant other at times. I think the comment came out of love, no doubt.”

BOOGITY! BOOGITY! BOOGITY!

NASCAR on FOX brings live coverage of the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. The green flag drops at 1 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Patrick said Stewart and Stenhouse discussed their differences after the race — and the comments will remain between the drivers. However, she insists that Stewart “loves (Stenhouse) like a son, and you would never hurt your son, you would only try to help them.”

Patrick said that if Stewart is traditionally hard on rookies, then she just “thanks the good Lord that I’m on his team.

“Tony wants to help teach the rookies and the rookies he respects and feels should get that time of day. If he didn’t think they were good, he wouldn’t try to help them because they won’t be around for long in his opinion.

“If there’s anyone out there that he says something about, it’s only because he knows they’re going to be around and he wants them to learn how to play the game the way he learned to play the game and he’s been here a long time and been very successful. It’s actually a good thing that he wants to help and he would speak up … you need to take care of those relationships or else they can bite you in the end.”

Patrick said that she was “a little bit upset” with Stenhouse after the race but the two made up on the ride home.

But this wasn’t their first on-track spat. Apparently, the couple agreed to disagree after Stenhouse took the competition four-wide at Talladega earlier this month and Patrick “was not a good recipient of that one.” But she believes it’s just something the drivers “have to deal with.”

Still, she also “understands” the human-interest side of the wreck considering that she and her significant other were both involved.

“He was part of the three-wide that made the accident, too, so it’s legitimately something you could ask,” Patrick said. “We’re just very honest. We keep things simple. We didn’t even talk about what we should say.

“The only thing to know is that we’re honest about the things that happen and it was a racing incident and we’re going to give our perspectives on what it was.”

WHAT WAS THAT?

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With qualifying for Dover scheduled for Friday afternoon, Patrick is already looking ahead to this weekend’s competition. She’s optimistic considering that her teammates Stewart and Ryan Newman both scored top-10 finishes in the Coca-Cola 600, the first time Stewart-Haas Racing has posted multiple top 10s since Phoenix International Raceway in March. Patrick feels the team is gaining grip, “which will help out overall with the car and translate into speed.” But her crew chief Tony Gibson is quick to remind her that they’re still “only 30 percent there.

“We all respond to results on the track and the performance on the cars because that’s what we’re here for. To have a weekend like Charlotte — by no means are we running up front — but we’re better. I think everybody is a little bit more happy and excited.

“We expected it to come around because it is a good team and with Tony at the helm, he’s out there racing the cars, too. It was really just about being anxious about when it would happen. I feel like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel but we have to keep working.”

Tagged: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart

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