Stenhouse was asked during the media tour's stop at Roush Fenway Racing if he was dating Patrick. He dodged the question, saying “we've got a great relationship” and then turned attention back to racing.
The subject will be hard for the two to avoid as they compete against each other this season for rookie of the year honors in NASCAR's top Sprint Cup Series. Both are moving up from the second-tier Nationwide Series at the same time.
Patrick said she won't race Stenhouse any differently.
“Obviously, we've been racing together for a couple years now, him and I have always gotten along, we've always had a lot of respect for each other on the track, there's never been an issue out there,” she said. “I always say I'll race people how they race me until they do something to make me change my mind. I don't anticipate that changing at all, or us having any issues on the track.”
Stenhouse echoed that attitude.
“It won't affect how I race on the track. I want to go out and win, I race everyone hard,” he said.
Patrick rocketed to worldwide prominence when she challenged for the Indy 500 win as a rookie, becoming the first woman to lead laps while finishing fourth in 2005. She finished a career-best third in 2009. She began dabbling in NASCAR in 2010 in the Nationwide Series, and moved full-time last year leaving IndyCar and the 500 behind.
Patrick has struggled in stock cars, notching just seven top-10s in 58 Nationwide races since 2010. Still, she was voted by fans the series' most popular driver last year.
In the Sprint Cup Series, where she'll drive this season for Stewart-Haas Racing, team co-owner Tony Stewart hand-picked 10 of the hardest tracks for Patrick last season to force her to learn on the fly in preparation for this year. Her average finish in the 10 races was 28th and her best finish was 17th in her season finale at Phoenix.
Stenhouse has won eight races over the last two seasons to become the first driver since Martin Truex Jr. in 2004-05 to win consecutive Nationwide titles. He was promoted this year by Roush Fenway to the Cup Series to replace 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth.