Danica Patrick won’t be a part of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018.
Patrick, 35, announced on her Facebook page Tuesday that she’s parting ways with the team at the end of the season. Her contract is up with SHR at the conclusion of the year.
“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons,” Patrick’s statement said. “Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way. My time driving for them, however, has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018. Sponsorship plays a vital role in our sport, and I have been very fortunate over the course of my career, but this year threw us for a curve. Our amazing partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful.
“I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver. Thanks for the memories. Right now, my focus is on the remainder of the 2017 season and finishing the year strong. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future.”
Nature’s Bakery was scheduled to sponsor Patrick in 2017 but that agreement came to a halt as the company and SHR became entangled in a legal dispute. The company felt Patrick had endorsed competing products on her social media channels, while Stewart-Haas claimed Nature’s Bakery wasn’t making its payments on time.
The new sponsorship agreement Patrick refers to is between Smithfield and the team. Smithfield, the current sponsor of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 car, is moving to Stewart-Haas in 2018, though the company’s driver or car hasn’t been determined. In addition to Patrick, Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch’s contract with the team is up at the end of the season.
Since moving to the Cup Series with SHR in 2013, Patrick has seven top-10 finishes in 180 career races. Her best finish came when she was sixth at Atlanta in 2014.
She moved to NASCAR full-time from the IndyCar Series in 2012. In seven years in IndyCar, Patrick had seven top-three finishes in 115 starts. Her lone IndyCar win came in Japan in 2008.
What’s next for Patrick in racing is anyone’s guess. Patrick told Yahoo Sports last week that she wasn’t sure what the next step in her career was but that she was open to anything. Mired in 28th in the points standings this year, Patrick has said she wants to be in a competitive ride … and competitive rides are hard to come by in the Cup Series. And Patrick isn’t the only big-name driver looking for a ride either.
In addition to Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are looking for rides in 2018. All three of those drivers made NASCAR’s playoffs in 2017. Patrick didn’t come close.
While she’s one of the most recognizable NASCAR drivers, Patrick’s ability to draw sponsors was tested in Nature’s Bakery’s absence. If she’s willing and able to find a company to pay millions to back her, she’ll be racing somewhere in 2018. Though it may not be a top-tier ride.
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