DOVER, Del. (AP) — Danica Patrick sides with her boss over her boyfriend.
Patrick laughed at the idea that Tony Stewart (her boss) wanted to choke Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (her boyfriend) for blocking in last week's race at Charlotte. In fact, she might have helped Stewart put his hands around Stenhouse's neck. Patrick had her race spoiled when she was wrecked by Stenhouse in their first on-track accident since they announced they were dating.
If Patrick felt caught in the middle of the boss-boyfriend squabble, she didn't show it Friday at Dover International Speedway.
"Don't you want to choke your kids every now and then?" she asked. "I mean, everybody wants to choke their kids, or their dad, or son, or significant other at times. So, I think that is a comment out of love, no doubt."
Stewart has said he loves Stenhouse like family, so this was more like dishing out some tough love rather than the start of a feud. Patrick said she took the comment as a sign that Stewart actually wants to help Stenhouse, a Sprint Cup rookie.
"If there is anyone out there that he says something about, it's only because he knows they are going to be around and he wants them to learn how to play the game the way that he's learned how to play the game," she said. "It's actually a good thing that he wants to help and that he would speak up, because at the end of the day we see each other every five days, not every couple of weeks.
"You need to take care of those relationships or else they could bite you in the end."
Sure enough, Stenhouse and Stewart talked after the race about both blocking and the biting comments. Stenhouse said he didn't block Stewart, just "held him up a little bit."
"We're like family, we always have been," Stenhouse said. "Things are good."
Of course, Stenhouse doesn't have to see Stewart every day. But he does see Patrick. Stenhouse got a bit of the silent treatment from Patrick on the way home from the race because of the wreck.
Patrick was racing in the middle of the three-wide pack when she was hit by Stenhouse and collided with Brad Keselowski. Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet suffered serious damage and she finished 29th, her sixth straight result of 25th or worse in her first full season in Sprint Cup.
"When you all say I wrecked her, I don't know if that's actually the case," Stenhouse said. "But you all can write whatever you want to. I did have involvement in it, being three wide."
She was upset with him but they hashed it all out before they got home — even with some stretches of quiet time — even as the first "Stenica" collision led to stories in sports and entertainment outlets.
"Yeah, I guess you could say it was a little more awkward with her because you never want to be in that situation," Stenhouse said. "But it's all good. We had a great Memorial Day and had fun on the lake. We're ready to go now."
Stenhouse won the 2012 Nationwide Series championship and is more used to talking racing than romance at the track. Patrick is long accustomed to the mainstream spotlight thanks to magazine shoots and Super Bowl commercials. She understands why fans are interested in how NASCAR's power couple got along after the accident.
"I'm sure I would want to know how that all went down after the race, too," she said. "We're an entertainment sport, so I get it."
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