Danica Patrick announced on her Facebook page Tuesday afternoon that she and her husband of seven years Paul Hospenthal are separating.
The post reads:
Message from Danica Patrick to her fans: "I am sad to inform my fans that after 7 years, Paul and I have decided to amicably end our marriage. This isn't easy for either of us, but mutually it has come to this. He has been an important person and friend in my life and that's how we will remain moving forward."
The post came just a couple hours after Patrick, 30, posted a video link thanking fans for voting her the most popular driver on NASCAR's mid-tier Nationwide Series circuit.
Patrick met Hospenthal, who is 17 years older, in 2002 when he helped her rehabilitate a hip injury, according to espnW.
USA TODAY Sports Nate Ryan caught up with Patrick and her husband, before the season opening Daytona 500, when Patrick talked of sharing time with her spouse in their Scottsdale, Ariz., home. They had just celebrated Valentine's Day by popping the cork on a 2004 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from their favorite part of Napa Valley, Calif.
"We'd never had it because they were like, 'Don't drink it for 10 years,' but I figured we'd waited long enough," Patrick told USA TODAY Sports at the time. "Paul said, 'It's Valentine's Day. We're going into a big year, and it's going to be great. We're headed to the Daytona 500. Honey, go pull something good.' "
The year did not turn out quite as planned for the Go Daddy-sponsored driver.
Patrick got off to a slow start on the Nationwide circuit in her first full-time season, an up-and-down year that included mid-pack finishes, a change in crew chiefs and frustrations for the driver who honed her skill on the IndyCar circuit -- where she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, as a rookie in 2005.
The past few weeks brought some lift, however, as she posted her best Sprint Cup finish among 10 races with a 17th at Phoenix International Raceway.
Four top-10 finishes in 33 Nationwide races helped her finish 10th in driver points -- highest ever for a female driver.
After becoming just the third woman to start NASCAR's biggest race this year, finishing 38th at the Daytona 500, she'll kick off 2013 there again. But it will be as a full-time driver in Sprint Cup with Tony Stewart's team.
And it will be without Hospenthal.
Written By: Heather Tucker, USA TODAY Sports