Tony Stewart calls Danica Patrick's boyfriend 'son'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — How did Tony Stewart react to the news that Danica Patrick was dating the driver he calls his son? With a prank, natu...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — How did Tony Stewart react to the news that Danica Patrick was dating the driver he calls his son?
With a prank, naturally.


Patrick was in the Stewart-Haas Racing shop last month.
"I was like, "Hey, I have a boyfriend," and he's like, "I know,' " Patrick told USA TODAY Sports with a laugh. "That was an easy conversation. So then we discussed a way that he wanted to mess with Ricky and say, 'You tell Ricky I'm pissed off that he didn't call me and talk to me about this and feel like we could have this conversation. Tell him I feel kind of betrayed that I thought we were better friends than that.' "
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Just as he was a sounding board for Patrick when she entered NASCAR, Stewart helped guide Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into a stock-car career. Stenhouse drove for Stewart's Brownsburg, Ind.-based open-wheel USAC team in the 2007 season.
"When I was racing for him, he started calling me his son," Stenhouse told USA TODAY Sports after Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday. "So every time he texted me, it's, 'Hey, son.' If he won, it's, 'Hey dad, good job.' So when (Patrick) told him (about the relationship), and I wasn't the one to tell him, he got a little mad like, 'I can't believe my son wouldn't contact me about this.' "
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Patrick said it was all in good fun for Stewart, the three-time Sprint Cup champion who is known as a world-class practical joker, but she had a hard time trying to keep up the ruse.
"I led Ricky down the path just for a minute when I saw him later," she said. "I was like, 'Tony was a little offended you didn't talk to him earlier.' He was like, 'Really? All right." And then five minutes later, I was like, 'OK, so I can't lie to you: Tony made me say that.' "
Said Stenhouse with a laugh: "She tried to play it off like, 'Hey, he's really mad,' and it didn't work. I got her out of it, and I've got to get him back now."
Given the tight bond between her boyfriend and team owner, Patrick said she wasn't worried about how Stewart would handle the news.
"I have known for a long time how much respect and care Tony and Eddie (Jarvis, Stewart's business manager) both have for Ricky," Patrick said. "So I knew it wasn't going to be a big problem, and if they had the emotion and feeling for him that I already knew, I was confident they were going to be happy for me."

Danica Patrick poses with the pole winner sign after becoming the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole position on Feb. 17, 2013.  Chris Graythen, Getty Images
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