From Comcast SportsNetDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Danica Patrick's personal life is no longer a secret -- she's dating a fellow driver.Patrick revealed to The Associated Press she and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are a couple, ending widespread speculation about the nature of their relationship."I have a boyfriend, his name is Richard," she said during an exclusive telephone interview with AP."I think I am just finally excited to tell someone about this," Patrick laughed, sounding almost giddy as she said the two-time Nationwide champion's middle name is Lynn and he prefers she use his first name.The couple waited until the end of Charlotte Motor Speedway's weeklong annual media tour to go public with their relationship, which started as a friendship as they raced each other the last two seasons in the Nationwide Series. Stenhouse became a mentor of sorts to the 30-year-old Patrick, who left IndyCar after the 2011 season to make the full-time switch to NASCAR."We are dating, and I know there's been a bit of a runaround this week at the media days and poor Ricky got grilled (with questions)," she said. "It was out of respect to NASCAR, to all the manufacturers, the new cars, the teams, the sponsors, just to allow the news of the day to be about racing and not let anything interfere with that. So, it's Friday now, so that's why we waited until the end of the week to be up front about each other."Stenhouse confirmed the relationship."Yes we are dating," he said. "I don't normally say too much about my private life, always been focused on the track. I didn't want to confirm at media day so that we could keep the focus on the season, the Gen-6 (car), my sponsors and team. That's what it's all about for me."Patrick remains one of the most recognizable drivers in auto racing, even if wins have been hard to come by. There was speculation that her appeal with advertisers had waned, but sponsor Go Daddy said Patrick will again appear in the website domain provider's commercials during the Super Bowl next month.Patrick announced in November she and husband Paul Hospenthal were divorcing after seven years, and said in the Jan. 3 filing that her marriage to the 47-year-old Hospenthal was "irretrievably broken."Speculation immediately shifted toward her relationship with the 25-year-old Stenhouse, who has never been married. While her policy has always been not to talk about her personal life, Patrick said she made an exception this time to end the gossip and so the two could be open about their relationship."I think that moving forward into the year, it's a matter of do you say anything at all, or do you just carry on?" she said. "As opposed to speculation and people making up their own stories or talking amongst themselves or us feeling uncomfortable walking into each other's (motorhomes) moving forward, or around our teams or anything, it's just easier to be up front and get it out of the way then to have any kind of awkward speculation."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 handpicked 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.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while starting to actually feel badly for the Republican Party.
*Lukas Head revisits an old photo taken with Steven Stamkos and PK Subban when all three were youth hockey players together.
*A disappointed Brooks Orpik gets emotional when discussing his playoff suspension. Maybe he should stop lining up guys for predatory hits if he doesn’t want to be suspended. His track record, and unwillingness to answer the bell for his actions, is well-chronicled.
*Barry Trotz hints that the Pittsburgh Penguins received preferential treatment in the aforementioned Brooks Orpik suspension.
*A heartwarming story of the San Jose Sharks saving the black cat that somehow jumped on the ice at the Shark Tank prior to Game 1 of their playoff series.
*Congratulations to the inspirational Travis Roy, who was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame last weekend.
*Bob Hartley is fired by the Calgary Flames. Could it be that it was done to make room for Bruce Boudreau, asks Puck Daddy?
*Former Bruins enforcer PJ Stock did some kind of FaceTime television hit with Rogers Sportsnet to make some playoff predictions.
*For something completely different: Jerry Thornton has a number of local Boston businesses banning Roger Goodell from their premises.
Suddenly, there’s an awful lot on the plate of young Jacoby Brissett.
Drafted in the third round by the Patriots, he’s charged with learning one of the most difficult offenses to in the NFL, performing in one of the league’s most demanding programs, dealing with being two heart attacks away from being the starter for a dynastic franchise and living up to the advance billing that’s built him up as one of the great Americans of the 21st century.
Bill Parcells, who’s known Brissett since the NC State product was in high school, spoke to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. The Tuna pumped Brissett’s tires up beyond all reasonable inflation levels.
“He’s a Curtis Martin, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown-type player,” Parcells said, reeling off the names of one Pro Football Hall of Famer and two Patriots Hall of Famers. “That’s the kind of guy he is. That’s what New England is getting. Those kinds, those Tedy Bruschi types, those players who’ve been successful — he’s very similar in his personal life to those kinds of guys.”
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who coached Brissett at Florida in Weis’ vagabond post-Patriots career, was also reached by the intrepid Guregian.
“I only got to coach him for one season, but I absolutely loved the kid as a player and a person,” said Weis. “I couldn’t be any happier that he ended up in New England.”
There’s much more from both Weis and Parcells but I’m not going to scavenge the whole article so click here to see it.
Meanwhile, Josh McDaniels on Monday also spoke about Brissett in complimentary but far-less-fawning terms.
“We’ll find out more as we get to know him in our building, but I know we feel good about the kid,” said McDaniels. “He did a lot of good things in college. He played in a lot of big games and played against some really good football teams. He performed well and admirably for his team. He takes care of the ball, makes some smart decisions. He’s a big kid and sometimes he’s hard to bring down in the pocket. There are some other things that we’ll get a better chance to see and evaluate when he gets here, but I’m looking forward to working with him.”
We already heard from Brissett in his post-draft conference call and he was enjoyable. But it will be interesting to speak with him in the flesh when the 2016 rookies are introduced en masse. No doubt by then the Patriots will have stressed to Brissett the importance of being a name, rank, serial number conversationalist rather than delving too deeply into his pre-Patriots relationships with former New England coaches.
After importing a fleet of corners over the weekend, the Patriots released veteran Rashaan Melvin on Monday.
Melvin was claimed off waivers in October of last season as the Patriots were combing the league for cornerback depth. He’d been with the Ravens previously and was targeted repeatedly by Tom Brady in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff win. Soon after joining the Patriots, he was on the field against the Giants in Week 9 when Justin Coleman got injured. It didn’t go well as Eli Manning sought Melvin out and chewed him up.
The Patriots released Melvin in mid-December and then signed him back to their practice squad.
The Patriots drafted Cyrus Jones on Friday and reportedly added four more undrafted corners (the team hasn’t confirmed those agreements yet) so Melvin became expendable.
The Patriots also released linebacker James Vaughters, who they signed to a futures contract in January.