(Photo: Sarah Stierch/Wikimedia (CC by 4.0) Danica Patrick’s career has taken a turn, but her legacy stands strong.
Danica Patrick, the only female driver to win an Indy Car Race and the Daytona 500 pole, will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2018 season.
Patrick, who has been with Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons, announced via Facebook on Tuesday that she would not be back for a seventh season with the organization.
Patrick struggled this season with mediocre finishes, finishing 28th in the regular season points standings for the Monster Energy Cup Series. This has been the worst season for Patrick since the 2014 season, where she also finished 28th in the points standings. This season Patrick has had only one top 10 finish, and finished the regular season with five consecutive finishes outside of the top 20.
“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons,” Patrick said in her announcement. “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.”
Patrick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends at the end of this season. And sponsorship issues continue to plague the number 10 car team. Patrick’s primary sponsor, Nature’s Bakery, has been involved in an ongoing dispute with the organization all season. On top of that, GoDaddy ended their sponsorship for the team at the end of last season.
“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,’’ said Patrick. “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.’’
One day after Patrick revealed that she would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, former driver and team owner Tony Stewart also made his own statement via Facebook showing support for Patrick’s decision.
“I’ve always been a believer in Danica’s ability as a racecar driver and that continues to be the case,” Stewart said. “She’s one of the most fearless people I’ve ever met. She has never backed down from a challenge. In fact, she’s sought out new challenges throughout her career, and that’s what brought her to NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing.’’
Patrick did not discuss what she plans to do after the 2017 season.
Regardless if Patrick returns to NASCAR for the 2018 season or not, there is no debating the impact that she has had not only on NASCAR, but also within motorsports. Patrick has opened the doors for other females to follow in her footsteps.
In a radio interview with NASCAR Radio’s show ‘’Happy Hours’’,, NASCAR President Brent Dewar recalled the moment when he realized the impact that Patrick had on not only his daughter, but also thousands of other girls just like her.
“I would ask Olivia, ‘Why are you cheering for Danica?’ ”, said Dewar. “And she says, ‘Dad, she’s a girl trying to beat the boys.’ How cool is that? And that’s opened the doors for many fans and many young racers.”
“We’ve got a lot of young females coming up through the series, and Danica’s presence will be immeasurable for years and years to come. She’s a top talent, both on and off the track.”
Adam Peele is the Pine Needle’s NASCAR expert. You can follow him on Twitter: a_peele24