"You can't tell your heart who to like and not like," Patrick says of her new beau. "It just happened"

By Dahvi Shira
February 22, 2013 07:00 PM
Tom Pennington/NASCAR/Getty

Danica Patrick knows mixing business with pleasure isn’t wise, but it’s not stopping her.

“I don’t think it was a good idea. [But] there was nothing I could do about it,” she tells menshealth.com of getting into a relationship with fellow NASCAR racer, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., 25. “You can’t tell your heart who to like and not like. It just happened.”

Patrick, 30, isn’t worried about running into a future ex-boyfriend on the racetrack.

“I know I’m setting myself up for that,” she says with a laugh. “But I choose not think about that possibility right now. I’m going to be positive.”

For now, the competition is friendly between the history-making superstar – who announced her split from husband Paul Hospenthal in November – and her new beau.

“Ricky and I have always had that situation where we give each other room [on the track],” Patrick says. “We respect each other on the track. I don’t see any reason for that to change.”

But despite the relationship, business is still business, and if something happened to her man mid-competition, she’d leave his care to handlers and continue on with the race.

“We both understand that this is a dangerous sport,” she says. “We know that things will happen, and we have faith in the safety of the cars and the tracks and the medical staff. If something did happen to him, there’s nothing I could do to help. I’d just have to remember that everything that needed to be done to make him safe was being done.”

Patrick, meanwhile, is set for the coveted pole position for her second turn in the Daytona 500 Sunday.