Patrick announced Tuesday that she wouldn't return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. "We have enjoyed our relationship with Richard Petty over the past five years, but are excited to join SHR and explore new ways to leverage our NASCAR sponsorship", said Kenneth Sullivan, president and CEO.
In fact, she has never even finished in the top 5 and she has just seven career top 10 finishes, with only one of those coming in the last 90 races. Details of the agreement, including the driver who will be added to SHR's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lineup in 2018, will be provided at a later date.
"Oh, yeah. She punted me, so I just punted her back", Dillon said. "I don't drive because I love the thrill of getting sideways". Patrick, who grew up racing open-wheel cars before making the transition to NASCAR, never found that consistent spot where she was comfortable with the uncomfortable in a stock auto.
"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.
Patrick also said while she wants to start a family (she dates NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), that wouldn't impact her decision. "I just want to do what feels right and what will give me the best chance - if I'm racing, will give me the best chance to perform and get in the winner's circle". When she qualified on the second row for the 2008 Indy 500, four years into her IndyCar career, the 4.6 was better than it's been in the nine years since - including for the 100th running (3.9) and for Fernando Alonso-mania (3.4).
She's the only woman to win a top-flight NASCAR pole position, and while some in NASCAR have grumbled that the attention she garnered on the circuit outweighed her achievements at least one fellow-driver recognised her on Tuesday as a ground-breaker. Her sponsor, Aspen Dental, hosted an event Wednesday in Streeterville that offered free go-kart rides and the opportunity to receive driving tips from Patrick.
If Patrick is done, she will leave a conflicted legacy in the sport.
"I'm proud of how hard Danica has worked during her time at Stewart-Haas Racing, and she continues to work hard". Patrick's contract with SHR ran through 2018, but the team has been searching for sponsorship since the Nature's Bakery fiasco.
She has set the bar for women drivers, and frankly, there aren't many in the NASCAR pipeline who appear ready for Cup in the next three years.
"It is out there and it's something that's being worked on", Patrick said.
"It's nice to hear, but I've also driven for him for a long time", Patrick said.