Danica Patrick, the only female driver currently in the top-level Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, won’t compete for Stewart-Haas Racing in the series next year. The team announced Tuesday that a new driver and sponsor would be in the car in 2018, and Patrick didn’t say what her plans were after this season.
Patrick joined Stewart-Haas with a full-time Cup Series ride in 2013, and has had sponsorship issues in recent years—MRN reported at the time that one of Patrick’s main sponsors, GoDaddy, left NASCAR altogether in 2015, and the team sued Nature’s Bakery for $31 million over alleged missed sponsorship payments for Patrick earlier this year.
Stewart-Haas didn’t announce Patrick’s replacement for 2018, though it was also announced Tuesday that the team signed Aric Almirola’s current sponsor, Smithfield Foods, for next season. The announcement also said Almirola would not return to his current team, Richard Petty Motorsports, in 2018. Makes you wonder.
Patrick didn’t say what her plans were after this year, and went with the typical “focused on this season” response to the news. From her Facebook page:
“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons. 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.”
No matter your opinions on Patrick’s mid-pack performance in the Cup Series after she made the career switch to stock cars, she makes an important contribution to the sport: She shows young girls that racing cars can be for them if they want it to be.
If Patrick doesn’t get a ride for the 2018 season, NASCAR’s highest level will go back to a sea of the same: nearly all white men.