NASCAR

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s Talent Will Lead Him out of Danica Patrick's Shadow

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16:  Drivers Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leave a rookie  meeting prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Richard LangfordCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2013

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s star is soaring. However, the biggest reason for this is that he is Danica Patrick's boyfriend

While this certainly isn't a negative thing, I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying the 25-year-old would like his fame to be more attached to his driving skills than his romantic life. 

After all, we are talking about a race car driver, and this breed of animal tends to be highly competitive. Luckily for Stenhouse, he is supremely talented and has the goods to carve out a legacy based on his on-track accomplishments.

This talent has been on vivid display as Stenhouse has made a rapid ascent to the Sprint Cup Series.

Stenhouse began racing stock cars in the ARCA series in 2008. In just his sixth race, he took the checkered flag. 

He quickly made the jump to the Nationwide series and he thrived. Stenhouse has back-to-back titles in the Nationwide series. He did this with a victories and consistent and smart driving. In the process, he has proven beyond a doubt that he knows how to handle the nuance of stock-car racing. 

Now, as he embarks on his first full-time year in the Sprint Cup Series, he is going to attempt to translate that success among the elite. 

With Roush Fenway Racing, Stenhouse is part of a solid team. He will find himself in strong cars with the chance to succeed. 

This certainly doesn't mean his success will be instant. There is a steep learning curve as Stenhouse makes the jump in talent. It is hard for any rookie to find instant success. 

Not only do drivers face the fact that they need experience to learn the nuances and style of Sprint Cup racing, but they also have a long way to go to form on-track relationships that lead to finding reliable drafting partners outside of their team. 

So, while Stenhouse isn't likely to do much this season for the masses to think of him as more than Danica's boyfriend, he will flash moments of brilliance. Then, as his career progresses, he will start adding titles and trophies that will make his accomplishments the center of his racing legacy. 

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