Continued from page 1

Kenseth was replaced at Roush by two-time Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

If Stenhouse wasn’t under enough pressure as the replacement for the 2003 Cup champion, he’ll be under tremendous scrutiny this season as the other half of NASCAR’s current “it” couple. Danica Patrick, who is moving to a full Cup schedule this year, told The Associated Press last month that she’s dating Stenhouse after she and her husband got a divorce.

The two will be racing each other for rookie of the year, but insist their relationship won’t affect how they race each other on the track.

“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.”

The Roush organization will also receive attention as fans watch and to see if Carl Edwards can rebound from last year’s slump. After losing the championship to Tony Stewart on a tie-breaker, Edwards went through a winless 2012 season and failed to make the Chase.

And, four-time champion Jeff Gordon will be starting fresh after his controversial close to 2012. He intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer in Phoenix, triggering a garage-area melee between their crews. While many thought Gordon should have been suspended, he was fined $100,000 and raced in the season finale, which he won.

The tension lingered between Bowyer and Gordon into the offseason.

“Listen, I’m not here to make friends,” Gordon said. “I like his friendship. It can stay this way. But we have to race each other. I know what this all came about from and he might not agree and I’m sure we’re going to disagree about a lot of things and we’ll go race … and see what happens.”


Follow Jenna Fryer online: and