There had been speculation regarding Danica Patrick’s future at Stewart-Haas Racing, but finally there was some clarity on Tuesday.
Patrick, who has been with the NASCAR Cup team for the past six seasons, announced via Facebook that she would not continue driving for the team in 2018.
“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. “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, 35, struggled this season, finishing 28th in points, which tied for the worst season in her six-year career in the Cup Series. She had one top-10 finish at Dover in June, but she ended the year with five consecutive finishes outside of the top 20.
On Wednesday morning, SHR owner Tony Stewart responded to the news with a statement regarding Patrick’s future.
“Making the jump from INDYCAR to NASCAR is not easy, yet she had the courage to do so and put up better numbers than a lot of other drivers who have tried to make that same transition,” Stewart said. “I’m proud of how hard Danica has worked during her time at Stewart-Haas Racing, and she continues to work hard.
“My support for Danica is unwavering. We’re going to end this season strong and make the most of these last 10 races.”
Patrick’s contract with Stewart-Haas was up at the end of this season, and sponsorship issues – her scheduled sponsor, Nature’s Bakery, has been in dispute with the team – have been a concern throughout the year. Smithfield Foods, which has sponsored the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports in the past, said Tuesday that it would be joining SHR 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,” Patrick said. “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.”
Patrick told Yahoo Sports a day before her announcement that she was unsure of what her future held.
Only two Stewart-Haas drivers – Kevin Harvick (sixth) and Kurt Busch (12th) – qualified for the playoffs this year. Patrick and Clint Bowyer, who finished 17th, failed to qualify.