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.
Ohio State lost an unbelievable amount of talent this offseason, sending 12 players — big-time, impact players — to the NFL Draft.
So there’s no way the Buckeyes can still be in contention for the Big Ten title, right?
“I would say going into this (season) this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had,” Urban Meyer said during Big Ten Media Days.
Here’s the list of the Buckeyes drafted to NFL teams earlier this year: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apply, Taylor Decker, Darron Lee, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Wahsington, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Joshua Perry and Cardale Jones. That’s a college football All-Star team right there.
But what you’ve got to understand is that Meyer and the Buckeyes don’t rebuild, they reload. Meyer’s five recruiting classes since he took the reins of the Ohio State program have been ranked No. 4 (2012), No. 2 (2013), No. 3 (2014), No. 9 (2015) and No. 3 (2016) — and the Class of 2017 is already ranked No. 2, perhaps his best yet.
So, yes, there are tons of holes to fill, and this Buckeyes team is very young, especially compared to recent seasons with championship wins and championship expectations. But the way Meyer has recruited, it’s not a question of how good the next wave is, it’s a question of when it will be ready to compete for a conference title.
“This year I’m trying to help the younger guys get up to our standard of how we play here at Ohio State and make sure they understand that we don’t have rebuilding years,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “The expectations are not going to change because you all don’t have experience. We’re going to try to do our best to make sure you get that in camp and practice, and it’s your job to make sure you come to play.”
And Meyer agrees. He thinks this team has the ability to win, but he knows that he needs to get it ready to do that.
“I see that potential,” he said. “I see I think 2014 was the template that everybody wants. J.T. Barrett was buried in the depth chart, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, Zeke Elliott, Mike Thomas — those guys were no-names, and they became very good throughout the course of 2014. And another guy, Cardale Jones, was buried on the depth chart. A lot of pressure on our coaches, assistant coaches and myself, to get them game-ready. I would say going into this this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had. Now how do we get them game-ready?”
Getting the team ready to do that is a different challenge than recruiting, however.
Ahead of training camp, back at the end of July, Meyer said he was looking at August as “the most critical coaching month” he’s ever had. That’s saying something for a guy who’s won a trio of national championships.
But as he pointed out, there are parallels to the 2014 team. Barrett was thrust into duty that season after an injury to Miller, Bosa was just a sophomore and nobody knew if Elliott could follow in the footsteps of Carlos Hyde. Similar questions — save the quarterback one — exist heading into 2016. So don’t be alarmed if the Buckeyes are again playing for a conference championship or more come the winter.
It is Meyer, after all.
“Where we are as a team in 2016, have to find a way to replace arguably one of the best group of players ever to come through college football,” Meyer said. “I've been answering a lot of questions about a young team. The issue would be if it was a non-talented young team. And that's not the case at all. So it's a very young team, but talented. Probably the most critical coaching month that I've ever been through. We have to get these guys ready. Forty-four of our players, which is over half of our scholarships, are kids that never played in a game. So we have to get them ready.”
It appears that one of the top-rated players in Michigan's 2016 recruiting class will never suit up in maize and blue.
Ahmir Mitchell, rated as a four-star prospect and one of the top 30 wideouts in the country in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, announced via Twitter that he has reopened his recuitment, meaning he'll be transferring from Michigan.
All love for the people of Michigan and U of M 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/dATIELCJQe— Ahmir_SoDevoted (@TheDeuce_2_Nice) August 24, 2016
There were high hopes for Mitchell, though he was revealed to be suspended after reporters asked head coach Jim Harbaugh about Mitchell's absence from the team picture, a line of questioning to which Harbaugh did not react well.
Mitchell was part of a hugely successful 2016 recruiting class for the Wolverines, one that ranked No. 4 in the country behind only Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, per Rivals' rankings.
Mitchell, a New Jersey native ranked as the No. 139 recruit in the country, selected Michigan over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among others.
According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Mitchell could still play at an FCS school this season by deciding to transfer at this point in the year.
We're getting three more seasons of the Champions Classic.
The annual early season college hoops event will run through at least 2019, it was announced Wednesday, with Michigan State, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky signing on for three more epic showcases in Chicago, Indianapolis and New York.
The event has been held each November since 2011, twice at the United Center and one time each at Madison Square Garden in New York, Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Madison Square Garden will host the pair of games for the second time this fall.
The new deal puts matchups at the United Center next year (Kansas vs. Kentucky, Michigan State vs. Duke), in Indy in 2018 (Michigan State vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Kentucky) and in New York in 2019 (Kansas vs. Duke, Michigan State vs. Kentucky).
The Spartans have fared well in the event, winning three of the five games its played, with the only two losses coming against Duke.
With all four teams so often receiving high preseason rankings, the event is a treat for college hoops fans, and it also does well to bolster those teams' strength of schedule for when tournament seeding comes in March.