Danica Patrick will depart Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season after driving for five years with the team in the hugely popular NASCAR stock vehicle series. A Wisconsin native who grew up in IL, she is in a long-term relationship with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will make his debut in the playoffs this weekend at Chicagoland.
Patrick, 35, now sits 28th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, the lowest in her cup career.
There had been plenty of speculation that Patrick, who had lost her primary sponsor at the start of 2017, would not be able to fulfill sponsorships heading into the 2018 season.
Patrick has driven for Stewart-Haas Racing her entire Cup career.
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"Will likely take decades to see anyone even challenge her legacy", Brad Keselowski posted on Twitter.
"The decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports and join Stewart-Haas Racing was hard but we feel this move will improve our competitiveness on the track and strengthen our position as a leading consumer packaged goods company", Smithfield said in a statement it posted on social media.
"She could leave right now and she's made a great impact", Larson said.
"I want to continue racing if I have an opportunity to do well", Patrick said August 16. Patrick's contract with SHR ran through 2018, but the team has been searching for sponsorship since the Nature's Bakery fiasco.
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Smithfield fired back Tuesday evening with its own statement, denying the handshake deal, chastising Petty for what the company termed "false statements", and blistering RPM for its failure to perform at a high level on the track.
Patrick joins a long list of NASCAR drivers without a home for next season, including notable former champions and current playoff contenders Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
"Danica has been a huge part of this sport and turned a lot of people into racing that might not have ever turned into racing", Harvick said. "The impact and the footprint that she has brought to our sport is big". Kurt Busch's contract was not renewed by the organization, though SHR had said when they made the Busch announcement that they hoped to bring the 2017 Daytona 500 victor back on a new contract.
"Quite simply, I just have faith what is meant to be will be", Patrick said August 16 at SHR.
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While SHR got Aspen Dental to increase its number of races with Patrick, the team found itself this summer trying to sell races for Patrick for just 2018 because it appeared there was little chance of Patrick and SHR wanting to continue racing together beyond next season.