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Danica Patrick announces divorce after seven years of marriage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Danica Patrick and her husband are divorcing after seven years of marriage.

Patrick announced the split with Paul Hospenthal on her Facebook page Tuesday.

"I am sad to inform my fans that after seven years, Paul and I have decided amicably end our marriage," she said. "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."

Hospenthal is a physical therapist who met Patrick while treating her for a non-racing injury. The two were married in 2005, and he is 17 years older than the 30-year-old driver.

Patrick just completed her first full season in NASCAR, running the full Nationwide schedule and 10 Sprint Cup Series races after leaving IndyCar.

Earlier this month, Patrick had her best finish in nine Cup starts this season, finishing 24th at Texas and running every lap for the first time. Tony Gibson was Ryan Newman's crew chief for Stewart-Haas Racing, but is moving to Patrick's team next season. They got a head start with her final two races this season and she finished 10th in Nationwide points, becoming the highest-finishing female driver in the history of NASCAR's three national series. The previous record was held by Sara Christian, who finished 13th in 1949 in the Cup series.

On Monday night, Patrick won the Nationwide Series' most popular driver award, which is voted on by fans, and she remains one of the most recognizable drivers in auto racing. Patrick challenged for the Indy 500 win as a rookie, becoming the first woman to lead laps while finishing fourth. She was a career-best third in 2009.

There was speculation that her appeal with advertisers had waned, but earlier this month Go Daddy said Patrick will again appear in the website domain provider's commercials during the Super Bowl next year. Patrick and Go Daddy first teamed up when the company became an associate sponsor for her IndyCar in 2007. Go Daddy became the primary IndyCar sponsor in 2010, along with a partial NASCAR schedule, and followed her for the full Nationwide Series and limited Sprint Cup schedules this year.

Go Daddy has committed to sponsor the Cup schedule next season, when Patrick moves up to NASCAR's top level on a full-time basis.

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