Danica Patrick is dating a cult member.
His name his Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and he worships in the House of Dirt.
The Sprint Cup drivers have been dating for going on three years and Patrick has come to learn that the Roush Fenway Racing driver is truly happy when he’s doing one thing.
“He’s one happy boy when he gets to drive dirt cars,” Patrick said at last month’s NASCAR Media Tour. “Honestly, he just loves driving those cars. I call it cult. If anyone knows anyone that really loved dirt racing, it’s like a cult. They talk about it all the time, they watch it on their computers, they watch it on TV if they possibly can if it’s available. They are watching it in live feed of positions and lap times and I’m thinking this can’t be that exciting?”
Entering his fourth Sprint Cup season in the No. 17 Ford, Stenhouse came up through the ranks of USAC before taking on NASCAR. In 2007, he was the USAC National Sprint Car and National Midget Rookie of the Year. During this offseason, the dirt called to the Olive Branch, Mississippi native, who returned to his roots and got to experience a bit of the success that has alluded him so far in the Sprint Cup Series.
Stenhouse competed in a race in Indianapolis and then on Dec. 19, won the inaugural Junior Knepper 55, a USAC Midget Special Event at the indoor Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, Illinois with his family and Patrick in attendance. He followed that up by competing in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he won an eight-lap heat race and advanced to the championship A-Main.
“I think he gets more nervous for the Chili Bowl than just about anything else,” Patrick said. “When he made the A-Main, I was really happy for him.”
Patrick believes the offseason excursions to play in the dirt and the taste of winning again will give Stenhouse the extra push he needs in his full-time job on pavement and asphalt. In his time with the No. 17, he has yet to find victory lane and has only three top-five finishes. That’s after he won two Xfinity Series championships.
“Going back to some of the things that I’ve said about being happy and that really propelling results, I think that will be his case,” Patrick said of her favorite cult member. “I think him being able to just do some things that he enjoyed in the offseason and then obviously winning always feels good. I think it’s going to carry over into the year and be a positive for him.”
But what about Patrick? What cult is she a card-carrying member of?
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver enjoys yoga, Cross Fit, cooking and vacations that she “needs to treat lightly on.”
“I don’t really have that super outside of racing thing that I’m into like he is into dirt racing,” Patrick said. “But I’m much more homey away from the track. I have a woman cave where I do my yoga. I have all my arts and crafts in there.”
In her “woman cave,” Patrick designs and paints. She even made a dreamcatcher for her sister.
“That’s kind of my escape,” Patrick said of her cult. “It’s much more artsy, which (Stenhouse) calls ‘weird.'”
“Artsy people can be a little weird, I get it.”